Outside of bragging rights, or the chance to keep a few impressive streaks intact, there wasn’t much on the line in the Southern Lakes Conference final Tuesday night.
Elkhorn had wrapped up its third straight conference championship a week before.
WIAA brackets had already been finalized and released, meaning Delavan-Darien had no incentive to push for an upset.
And both sides wanted to stay healthy as they looked ahead to potentially deep playoff runs.
So even though after 90 minutes the scoreboard registered a 4-0 win for Elkhorn, the two rivals ultimately each got what they wanted on a blustery evening at Elkhorn Area High School.
The Elks (16-1-0) scored three goals in the first half en route to their 16th straight win and their fifth straight win over the rival Comets.
“We just kept working hard. Guys were put in the right spot and we beat the teams we needed to beat,” senior Devon Davey said of Elkhorn’s dominant regular season.
The Elks have outscored opponents 101-10 ahead of Thursday’s regular-season finale against Milton.
Elkhorn’s early pressure Tuesday yielded a goal in the 6th minute, when Timmy Spreitzer volleyed a shot over a downed keeper after Alec Birbaum’s driven shot was denied by the crossbar.
Then Luke Truesdale and Ray Beilman each got their heads on the end of long throws from Ben Vogel to make it 3-0 in the first 25 minutes.
Beilman, the only freshman listed on Elkhorn’s varsity roster, used the outside of his right boot to connect in the 72nd minute for his 10th goal of the season.
Delavan-Darien’s only losses this season have been to Elkhorn. The Comets (16-2-3) finished with seven shots, putting four on net against Elkhorn keeper Preston Ward.
“The first 25 minutes were embarrassing,” Delavan-Darien coach Mike Marse said. “We proved tonight there’s things we can do better.”
Elkhorn opens the WIAA Division 2 playoffs next Tuesday against Wilmot—a team the Elks crushed 22-0 on Sept. 19.
Elkhorn is unbeaten in its last 24 home matches and, for the second straight season, will have the luxury of playing on its home field all the way through a sectional final—should the top-seeded Elks advance that far.
“That’s the whole part about getting the No. 1 seed. Everybody has to come to you,” Elkhorn coach BZ Kayser said. “You don’t have to travel on the bus and all those things. Those are inconveniences.”
Second-seeded Oregon, which won a penalty shootout 5-4 to advance to state at Elkhorn’s expense last October, lurks on the other side of the bracket.
The Elks and Panthers are positioned to meet in the sectional final again.
“We have some boxes we need to check off,” Kayser said. “We’ve got one checked off, but we’ve got two or three more we want to get checked off before we finish the year up.”
Delavan-Darien wraps its regular season Thursday at home against Beloit Memorial and then will wait a week for its postseason debut—Oct. 24 against either No. 15 Mauston or No. 18 Black River Falls/Melrose-Mindoro.
The second-seeded Comets shouldn’t have much trouble advancing through their regional. A potential meeting with third-seeded Mount Horeb in a sectional semifinal could be Delavan-Darien’s first true test.
The Comets won the Division 3 state title in 2016 and were runners-up in 2017. Last year’s run ended against New Berlin West in a regional final.
Delavan-Darien turned over much of its roster following that “down” campaign but is once again a legitimate state contender. The Comets were ranked No. 2 in Division 3 in the latest WSCA Coaches Poll.
“As we get our Division 3 teams, you’re going to see an improvement in how we play and what we do,” Marse said.
“We’re still thinking state. We’re going to do our best to get there.”
Yovany Fonseca made three saves for the Comets, while No. 2 keeper Hector Flores stopped two shots.
Area postseason outlook
Janesville’s boys soccer teams will be heavy underdogs in the opening round of the Division 1 playoffs next Tuesday.
Craig was seeded 14th in the Sun Prairie Sectional and will open at No. 3 Madison East. The Cougars have lost eight straight matches against the Purgolders, including a 4-0 loss Oct. 3.
Parker drew the 16th seed, earning a date with top-seeded Verona, the runaway Big Eight Conference champion and the No. 3 team in the state, according to Monday’s WSCA Coaches Poll. The Wildcats beat the Vikings 11-0 on Sept. 10.
In Division 2, No. 9 Milton opens on the road against No. 8 Stoughton. The winner would likely face Elkhorn in a regional semifinal.
Evansville is positioned to make a run in the Division 3 Edgewood Sectional. The fifth-seeded Blue Devils open against 12th-seeded La Crosse Logan. If they can make it through their regional, Rock Valley Conference foe and top-seeded McFarland would probably await in a sectional semifinal.
ELKHORN 4, DELAVAN-DARIEN 0
Delavan-Darien 0 0—0
Elkhorn 3 1—4
Elk—Timmy Spreitzer (Alec Birbaum), 5:51. Elk—Luke Truesdale (Ben Vogel), 20:44. Elk—Ray Beilman (Vogel), 24:02.
Saves—Yovany Fonseca (DD) 3, Hector Flores (DD) 2, Preston Ward (E) 4. Shots—DD 7, Elk 17. Shots on goal—DD 4, Elk 10. Corners—DD 3, Elk 4. Offsides—DD 1, Elk 1. Fouls—DD 13, Elk 12.