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June 12, 2012 | 04:16 PM
KENOSHA — Speed kills.

In soccer, speed combined with skill and a turf field can equate to nightmares for an opponent.

Add home-field advantage, and the fifth-seeded Badger girls soccer squad had a stacked deck June 7 in a Division 1 sectional semifinal against the quicker, top-seeded Kenosha Tremper Trojans.

Playing on Ameche Field, Tremper's home turf, the Trojans scored three first-half goals, two in the first 14 minutes, and cruised to a 3-0 victory.

Badger, who appeared in its second girls soccer sectional in school history, finished the season 15-6-2. Tremper (22-3-1) went on to crush Racine Horlick, 6-0, Saturday at Badger High School to advance to Thursday's state tournament.

Tremper's speed was hard to defend in the first half.

"We talked all week of the importance of being able to play fast because they do," Badger coach Ross Fowler said. "We struggled with that all night long. In the second half, the girls realized they had to play the ball really quick. We stressed that all week in practice, and our wake-up call was in the first half. Tremper's a very skilled team. They're a team built for a turf like this."

The Trojans played with a high level of comfort on their home field, commanding most loose balls and spending most of the entire first half in Badger territory.

Conversely, Badger wasn't able to get anything going offensively in the first half. Tremper was playing "keep away," holding possession most of the time. The local girls rarely reached Tremper territory during the first 40 minutes and couldn't muster a threatening shot.

Tremper's domination of the ball led to Maggie Edmark goals in the seventh and 14th minutes. Badger goalie Autumn Mikrut was constantly on her toes and finished with seven saves, many of which came in the first half.

Jessie McKay's tally in the 39th minute gave Tremper a 3-0 cushion. The ball slipped through Mikrut's hands and just passed the goal line before Mikrut could recover and grab it.

By the second half, the Badgers got back to their game, but it was too late. The girls were able to hold Tremper scoreless and produce more shots on offense. Badger finished with five shots on goal.

In the 70th minute, Badger's strongest chance came from senior Emma Kopp, who finally broke through a game-long double team for a solid shot attempt. Kopp, Badger's leading scorer, was proud of her team's effort.

"They shut you down and won't let you turn," she said. "Once you have the ball, you have to use your other teammates. But we put some great passes together and worked hard. We had our chances and put some good stuff together. Tremper's a great team. But we stayed with them. They've been beating teams by a lot all year, and to hold them to three goals is a credit to us. For the most part, we pressured the ball and got back on defense."

Fowler said his team improved in the second half.

"I was proud of the girls' effort," he said. "They could've hung their heads. We were able to put some passes together in the second half. I'm proud of these seniors. I talked to them about the tradition they set here. We wanted to get them one step further. They are a great group of young women."

Badger senior Angelina Delgado said Tremper's speed was difficult to overcome.

"They really had good individual footwork," she said. "They had speed on us. I hope they do well in state. In the second half, we came out with more fire in our eyes and were thinking it was now or never."

A magical season

For the second time in school history, the Badgers won the regional title. They were second in the Southern Lakes Conference behind Delavan-Darien.

Individually, there was a long list of all-conference honorees. Kopp, who led the team with 26 goals, was named SLC athlete of the year. Delgado and Mikrut joined her on the first team.

Sophomore defender Alex Swarthout earned second team honors. Senior Beatriz Aranda was an honorable mention selection.

For Kopp, it was team chemistry which fueled the Badgers to a strong season.

"It's difficult to go out," she said. "But to win two regionals in four years feels really good. We couldn't have done it with two better teams. This year, we practiced every day putting passes together. We learned how to play with each other, and we knew where each other was going to be. We were a family, and that's all that matters. We worked as a team."

Kopp, who was an all-conference basketball performer as well, will miss her time at Badger.

"I will miss the dedication from the coaches and players," she said. "The coaches put their all in it. They take time out of their families, and they're here for us. They made us the best we can be."

Delgado, who was SLC athlete of the year and an all-conference pick as a sophomore, will miss playing offense.

"It was fun being able to play offensively on this team," she said. "On my club team, I play defense. It was a truly amazing year. We were honored as seniors to go to sectionals again. Most of us were on varsity as freshmen, so it was cool being able to repeat."

Along with Kopp, Aranda, Delgado and Mikrut, Badger will lose 10 seniors total, including Nicolette Almeida, Quin Wessels, Brooke Olsen, Caroline Kozaczuk, Melissa Chavez, Angeli Soto and Kelsey Nocek.


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