March 28, 2012 | 07:55 AMLast season, the Badger girls soccer team had a solid season, going 13-7-2 and taking second in the Southern Lakes Conference.
Unfortunately, the girls were upset by Elkhorn in the first round of the WIAA playoffs.
But this spring, the Lady Badgers are poised to move into the conference's top spot, and they have the ammunition to back it up.
Four all-conference performers, including reigning conference player of the year Angelina Delgado, are back for Badger, which boast 10 returning letterwinners.
Delgado is a senior midfielder, and senior forward Emma Kopp is a fellow returning first team all-conference selection.
Junior defender Traci Mulligan (first team) and sophomore goalie Autumn Mikrut also return for the local girls.
With talent to spare, third-year Badger coach Ross Fowler knows his team is ready to reach the next level.
"Our first goal is to win the conference title," he said.
"I am extremely excited for this season. We have a ton of young ladies back. They have been working hard in the offseason, so it should be exciting."
Along with the all-conference quartet, other returning players will include seniors Beatriz Aranda (defender), Brooke Olsen (midfielder), Kelsey Nocek (forward/midfielder) and Quin Wessels (midfielder), junior Stephanie Espinosa (midfielder) and sophomores Alex Swarthout (midfielder).
So far, Fowler has been impressed by his seniors.
"I am pleased with our effort and focus at practice," he said. "I think our senior leadership is what has really been standing out at practice."
Juniors Lily Fisher, a goalie/midfielder, and Hayley Aranda, a forward, are newcomers who will make an impact this season, according to Fowler.
Fowler said Delgado will command a lot of attention on the field.
"Angelina will control the midfield," he said. "But we will need people to take the pressure off of her because teams will key on her. As far as scoring goes, we will look for Emma, Hayley (Aranda) and Kelsey up top to find the net."
Kopp is the leading returning scorer. She tallied 36 points with 18 goals last season. Seven of those goals were game-winners. Delgado scored 25 points last year including eight goals and nine assists.
Mikrut notched 77 saves last year and had a solid 1.19 goals-against average.
Badger opens with a tough nonconference tilt Thursday at Kenosha Bradford. With a little more than a week of practice under their belts, Fowler knows there is a lot to work on.
"I think the team needs to improve its communication on the field and execute the game plan each and every game," he said. "We should have learned a lot from some mistakes last year, and if we make the corrections, we should have a successful year."