One way or another, Elkhorn’s boys soccer players will be at a WIAA Division 2 sectional final Saturday afternoon.
The Elks will host the match on their new turf, and they’ve got a chance to be playing for the right to advance to the WIAA state tournament for the third time in program history and second time in the past three years.
However, they’ll need to get past Waunakee in a sectional semifinal Thursday night first.
“The message is you’re either going to be playing in a sectional final or working it, because we’re the host,” Elkhorn coach BZ Kayser said. “This is where we fell last year. We played our worst game of the season, and it was at the worst possible time. So it’s the responsibility of our seniors to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The second-seeded and sixth-ranked Elks host the third-seeded and 10th-ranked Warriors at 7 p.m. Thursday.
One of the teams’ unbeaten streaks will end.
Elkhorn is 16-1-2 and hasn’t lost since a 1-0 result against Whitefish Bay in the team’s very first match of the season. Waunakee is 13-2-4 but is unbeaten in its last 16 matches after falling in back-to-back contests against Henry Sibley (Minnesota) and Sun Prairie in late August.
“Looking at their schedule, you know they’re a solid team,” Kayser said of Waunakee. “They won the Badger North, and I think it’ll be a well-balanced, even match.”
Elkhorn hopes its depth continues to prevail.
Luke Umnus leads the team with 22 goals scored, but Alec Birbaum (12) and Adam Reigle (11) are each in double digits, and six others have scored at least five times.
“We’re just solid all around,” Kayser said. “We don’t have superstars, but have no holes, either. They play the system well and play together well and play for each other.
“You play some teams, and there’s one or two kids you have to stop. With us, we don’t have that.”
Waunakee has similar balance, with eight players who have scored at least four goals but not one who has a definitive lead in scoring.
Waunakee is seeking its second state appearance. It won a state title in 1999.
The winner of Thursday’s sectional semifinal at Elkhorn plays the winner of top-seeded Oregon and fourth-seeded Monona Grove at 1 p.m. Saturday in Eklhorn.
Milton volleyball all about belief
Milton’s volleyball players know exactly what they will get in a Division 1 sectional semifinal match against Burlington on Thursday night at Oregon High.
The Demons are the defending state champions and have made four straight trips to state and eight in the past nine years.
Head coach Wayne Hansen said his players simply need to believe in themselves.
“I’ve reminded them who they played all summer long. Their club team went to St. Louis and beat really good teams that were as good as Burlington,” Hansen said. “It’s a great program over there (at Burlington), but it’s also the name. We have a good team, and it’ll just depend how we play that day. Lately, they’ve been believing in themselves.”
The Red Hawks are coming off a four-set victory over fifth-seeded Janesville Craig.
Hansen said his players looked at him during that match and simply said, “We’re not going to lose this match.”
“Our eight seniors know enough is enough,” Hansen said. “We are going to walk in with our heads held high. We know this gym, so that helps. We’re getting some colleges looking at a couple players, as well, so that’s a little confidence boost for each of them. And then, collectively, we’ve had some great practices.”
Milton is led by senior Chloe Buescher, who was named the Badger South Conference’s player of the year. Courtney Knutson and Ashley Didelot earned second-team all-conference honors, while Emma Sullivan was honorable mention.
Hansen said the teams should match up well, with both teams particularly strong in the middle up front.
“In the past, we’ve maybe had the defense, but not enough offense to counter that,” he said. “This year, we have that. When you go against these teams, you can’t have unforced errors. We have to play the best we can play and force them into the errors.
“I think we’re peaking at the right time. But I don’t think we’ve reached our best.”
Milton and Burlington will play at 5 p.m. That match will be followed by second-seeded Westosha against sixth-seeded Oregon in the other sectional semifinal.
The winners meet Saturday at Westosha.