The Winnebago Lutheran soccer team is making its 12th WIAA sectional appearance this week. To make it to a fourth state tournament, the Vikings have a mountain to climb.
Today, the defending Division 3 runner-up makes the 2 hour trip to Sturgeon Bay to play a sectional semifinal against the top-ranked team in the state in the final coaches poll. The winner plays Saturday night at the Fondy Soccer Complex against the second-ranked N.E.W. Lutheran or Howards Grove, which received honorable mention. With all that firepower, WLA coach David Haag knows his team can’t give up many goals this week.
“We’re going to have to play our best obviously. I think we’re going to have to have a very good defensive effort,” Haag said. “If we would be lucky enough to win we’d be able to come back here, and that will be a very tough (sectional final) game.
“We need to get off to a good start and contain them and give ourselves a chance to stay in the game.”
Haag said he only had a limited scouting report of the Clippers (22-3), who won the Packerland championship, but he said they have strong, fast forwards, which reminded him of his 2009 state tournament team.
The good news for WLA (16-5-3) is that it has experience in the back, including captains Jacob Schraufnagel and Trent Rieder and a goalie who started last year in junior Caleb King.
Despite that experience, the rest of the Vikings are fairly young and they had to replace 50-goal scorer Aaron Calkins. Haag said that at the start of the year he didn’t know if the team would continue its regional championship streak.
“We just had so many new guys and we start four sophomores and you just don’t know how they’re going to react,” he said. “Physically it’s a faster game and a tougher game and I think a lot of the sophomore guys knew they were going to play and they worked hard in the weight room to get stronger.”
The five seniors on the roster have been critical for WLA. Four players scored at least 10 goals this year and three are seniors: Schraufnagel (11), Aaron Markgraf (13) and leading scorer Richie Schultz (15).
“I think we’ve had great leadership from our seniors,” Haag said. “They have really helped elevate our play this year.”