With 16 seniors on its roster, all signs pointed to another historic season for the Waunakee girls soccer team this spring. But, the Warriors were derailed before they got started after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the WIAA to cancel all spring sports.

“The most difficult part is not being around the players,” Warrior coach Ben Voss said. “I miss them. I know the players miss seeing each other and all the fun things that come with a spring soccer season.”

The excitement level was building for the 2020 season before it was halted.

“Our team and program was ready to continue with where we left off last season,” Voss said. “We were looking to win conference, make it to a sectional final and give ourselves a chance to play at the state tournament.”

Last season, the Lady Warriors earned third trip to state in the history of the program. It was their first trip since winning their only state title in 2014.

Waunakee finished 18-3-2 overall last season. The Warriors were 9-0 on their way to a Badger North Conference title.

The Warriors were the top seed at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament. They were upset 2-1 by fourth-seeded Muskego in the semifinals.

“Last season was a lot of fun,” Voss said. “We had a lot of success, but it’s how we improved throughout the season that impressed me the most. We continued to get better and we found ways to win the close games. Winning conference with an 8-0-0 record and zero goals against is impressive. We executed our game plans in the playoffs and were rewarded with a trip to the state tournament.”

The group of 16 seniors who were expected to lead the way this spring, included Ashlyn Anderson, Isabelle Barmore, Kylie Bassett, Anne Dotzler, Brooke Ehle, Erin Hippo, Grace Johnson, Susie Kettner, Taylor Landness, Luisa Lutes Davidson, Martha Moran, Caylee Nechvatel, Mikaila Olsen, Peighton Steffen, Sophia Whittington and Mallory Zuhde.

“Our senior class is a talented group, but more importantly, an amazing group of personalities that made good choices and did things the right way,” Voss said. “They will be missed.”

The Warriors have been keeping in touch during the Safer-at-Home order.

“We have done a number of things to keep in touch,” Voss said. “We have done grade level chats, posted weekly workouts, tracked player progress on fitness, touches on the ball and activities. We have sent out weekly emails to guide players and families. The hardest part is the wait to see if we will be able to be together on July 1.”

The WIAA is allowing for spring sports teams to have a 30-day contact period this summer. This year’s senior class will be allowed to participate.

“Our coaching staff plans to use the 30-day contact period this summer, but we will wait to see how the athletic directors in the Badger Conference weigh in on the decision,” Voss said. “We will have practices and schedule games if possible. Our seniors have made the decision that they want to be together, compete, and have fun.”

Losing an entire season is tough, but Voss is confident the underclassman will continue to grow and improve.

“I think the underclassmen will be fine,” Voss said. “They will be replacing a large senior class. I think the underclassmen will look forward to playing knowing what we went through with COVID-19. This whole situation has made us appreciate what we have, and I think playing again will make them more competitive and ready to work even harder.”

The excitement level is already rising for next season.

“Next spring will be exciting, just to see everyone again and be together,” Voss said. “There will be a new challenge with freshmen and sophomore classes both being new to the program. I look forward to seeing how the new group of seniors will get to put their leadership skills to use.”

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