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Badger soccer aiming for Kenosha schools

Janikowski's OT goal sends Badgers to fourth straight sectionals

October 20, 2010 | 08:31 AM
For all of regulation and the opening stages of overtime Thursday night, the Elkhorn boys soccer squad pretty much had Badger star senior Matric Kotula figured out.

It was the WIAA regional final between the two teams, and constant double and triple teams kept Badger's leading scorer at bay. But in the 83rd minute, the Elks forgot about Badger's wild card — sophomore Kyle Janikowski.

Thanks to a solid long pass by Filiberto Librado from midfield that the heavily-blanketed Kotula just missed, Janikowski swooped in uncovered and smacked the game-winning score into the top right corner of the Elkhorn net, lifting Badger to a 1-0 triumph. It was Badger's fourth straight regional title, and they will look to make their fourth consecutive sectional final game.

Janikowski's touches were a tad off at times in the defensive contest, but when it mattered most he delivered.

"The ball came in and went right over Matric's head," Janikowski said of the game's only goal. "I saw an opportunity for the volley and took it. I was looking for the back post. I was just hitting it to score. It was an amazing feeling. We had a tough time getting past Elkhorn, but we finally broke through."

With the victory, Badger will advance to sectionals Thursday at No. 1 seed Kenosha Bradford, who beat Racine Case (No. 8) 4-1 last Thursday. Bradford upended Badger, 5-0, earlier in the season.

For most of the second half and overtime, Badger flooded Elkhorn territory but consistently missed scoring opportunities. Much like the Elks did to Badger in the Southern Lakes Conference tournament, they held Kotula in check Thursday. And it didn't help that senior Chris Georgalas, who scored two goals in Badger's 4-1 regional semifinal victory Tuesday over Janesville Parker, was out with a concussion. According to Badger coach Ross Fowler, Georgalas will practice Monday and will play next Thursday in Kenosha.

As for Kotula, he knew his team would pull through despite the tough Elkhorn defense.

"It was real frustrating having like four guys on me," Kotula said. "But it opened up the outside and allowed everyone else to work the ball toward the goal. I was very impressed by Kyle's goal. I'm just glad I didn't head it. I was really nervous, but I knew we were going to win. We're a better team than Elkhorn."

Kotula added that the Badgers are ready to take on Kenosha Bradford, a team ranked in the state's top 10.

"I'm confident we will win," he said. "Everyone just needs to work for each other. I think I can beat double and triple teams. I can get shots and just hope they go in. The team played well tonight. But we need to get better touches and not be so antsy with the ball. We must make sure we control the ball before making our next move."

Defensively, Badger held the Elks to only six shots on goal, and senior goalie Brendan Gruenwald-Schmitz came up big with five saves. Senior defender Ben Larwa said the key to victory was stopping Elkhorn's best player, junior Jordan Kayser.

"The key was keeping Korbin (Klausen) on Jordan Kayser," Larwa said. "We man-marked Korbin on him. Everywhere Jordan went, Korbin went. If Korbin was going out to get a drink, Korbin went with him. So they only had one free forward, and myself and two other defenders stopped him. Considering we've played Elkhorn twice and they are our rivals, we knew they were coming for us."

Larwa is excited to get Georgalas back for sectionals, and he said the team is playing together at the right time.

"We're more of a team now compared to when we first played Bradford," Larwa said. "Plus, with Chris coming back, he is one our stars, so we should give Bradford a good game."

Fowler said win or lose, this was one of the most fun tilts of the season. He added that his guys did a good job advancing the ball into Elkhorn territory.

"I felt we controlled the game," Fowler said. "We game planned to find 'Tric (Matric) in the box, and we did a good job at that in the first half. In the second half, we did an even better job at it. Martin Valadez played an outstanding game in the center-mid spot for us. Also, Klausen did an outstanding job marking their best player. Kayser didn't have any looks at the goal. I was very proud of Korbin. Elkhorn played outstanding tonight. It's unfortunate someone had to lose. This was so much fun. Win or lose, it was a great game."

Fowler added he wasn't surprised by Janikowski's late heroics.

"Kyle's a kid that just works his rear end off," Fowler said. "He does it in practice every day. I really trust him out there as a sophomore. We really needed someone to step up with how they were covering Matric, and I'm glad Kyle did."

Now, Badger could possibly face Bradford and Kenosha Tremper, two of the state's top teams. The local boys could gain revenge on each team, as Bradford beat Badger 5-0 this season and Tremper edged Badger, 2-1, in last year's sectional final. Fowler knows his team will be ready.

"I have a lot of confidence in our kids to be focused," he said. "They're going to be hungry against Bradford. We didn't have the result we wanted earlier in the season. We'll come out ready to play, and it's nice to have a week to prepare for them. Bradford plays straight up man defense, and they've got a couple skilled forwards. Their firepower is on offense."

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