With an unusual 2020-21 school year in the books, here is a look back at some of the biggest games, players and moments from the Lake Geneva region’s sports teams.
The top 10 featured here represent by no means an exhaustive list of impressive performances, and there are outstanding athletes who will not make the list because of the difficult constraint of choosing just 10 moments.
10. Badger school board allows fall sportsWhile this did not on a court or field, it was one of the most critical moments of the year because if the school board’s decision went the other way, many of the other nine accomplishments may not have happened at all.
In late August, when coronavirus numbers were still climbing and news of a vaccine were still far off, the Lake Geneva-Genoa City Union High School District board had a difficult decision to make: take a cautious approach and not allow Badger’s high-risk sports to play in the fall, or acknowledge the risk and move forward with the season per WIAA rules.
As expected with such a monumental decision, the Aug. 24 vote was close. Too close, in fact, ending in a 3-3 deadlock with one board member absent from the meeting.
To break the tie, a second meeting was planned two days later, and Badger’s coaches and athletes were out in full force to plead their case.
Those pleas worked, as the board voted 4-3 to allow the season to begin a few days later, much to the delight of the crowd in the Badger High auditorium.
“It felt like something out of those cheesy football movies,” senior football player Cole Kayser said. “Excitement, happiness, relief all in one moment.”
9. Badger soccer snaps playoff skidThe Badger boys soccer team is in a tough situation each season, with a number of the top programs in the state typically falling in their playoff bracket. As such, the program had fallen into a bit of a postseason rut in recent years.
That ended last fall, when the Badgers won their first playoff game since 2016, and claimed their first regional championship since 2010.
First up was a matchup against a familiar foe, as the Badgers took on Southern Lakes Conference rival Burlington on Oct. 20. Badger beat the Demons twice in the regular season, then knocked them out of the playoffs in a 3-1 win in Lake Geneva to snap the Badgers’ winless streak.
Next up was a road trip to face Mukwonago on Oct. 24, and even though the Indians were the higher seed, Badger pulled off an upset, winning in a 3-2 shootout after the two teams were tied 1-1 at the end of overtime to win a regional championship.
While the Badgers’ magical run ended in the first round of sectionals against perennial powerhouse Elkhorn, it was still a successful rebound season for the soccer program.
8. Badger track and field dominates SLCWhile Badger’s track and field program had seen plenty of notable individual accomplishments in recent years, Southern Lakes Conference championships had eluded them.
This season, though, they had an abundance of success at the SLC title meet, with both the boys and girls teams taking home conference championship trophies.
For the boys program, the win marked the first SLC title since the team won four in a row from 2013 to 2016. For the girls, it was the first title since back-to-back wins in 2012 and 2013, with this also being the first time both squads won in the same year since 2013.
With both teams thriving at the same time, it has been a bit of a self-sustaining cycle where one group’s success motivates the other and vice versa.
“Them looking good is making us look good,” girls head coach Jenn Chironis said. “It was really a fun night for all of the kids in our Badger track program.”
7. Badger girls basketball goes back-to-backBadger’s girls basketball team broke through in the 2019-20 season, winning their first conference title in eight years.
This season, that impressive run continued, as the Badgers won the Southern Lakes Conference co-championship, tying Union Grove at the top of the standings for the second season in a row.
Their repeat bid for a championship was not a cake walk, though, as the Badgers had to battle through a Covid-related shutdown that cancelled games and practices for 14 days, then had to juggle a pair of season-ending injuries to key seniors on top of that.
However, when the Badgers needed big performances, they got them, and that’s why they ended up as the cream of the crop in the SLC for the second season in a row.
“That’s what you need if you’re going to win a conference championship, especially doing it two years in a row, you need people to step up and we did,” head coach David Jooss said.
6. Badger swim teams’ stellar state meetsBoth the Badger girls and boys swim teams have seen their fair share of dominance locally in the last few years.
Each squad has been a perennial Southern Lakes Conference champion, with a number of plaques for sectional meet successes as well.
This year, both teams upped the ante with some of their top state meet performances in the last decade.
On Nov. 14, the Badger girls finished ninth at the state meet in Waukesha, matching their 2012 placement as their best since placing sixth in 2009.
Freshman Mackenzie Thomas set a new school record of 23.42 in the 50-yard freestyle, and a team of Thomas, sophomore Callie Ceshker, sophomore Zoe McNeill and senior Lauren O’Brien combined to set a school record in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:35.16. That relay squad also finished in second place in their race, giving the school its best event placement since the 2011 season.
The Badger boys responded with their own state success, taking 12th in their meet in Waukesha on Feb. 6, notching the best placement since the team took fourth in 2008.
Like their girls counterparts, the boys’ 200-yard freestyle relay team set a school record with a time of 1:24.74, earning a state runner up for the team’s best event finish since 2008, thanks to the performance of junior Benton Greenberg, senior Tommy Anderson, sophomore Evan Langelund and senior Ethan Marunde. The boys also set a new record in the 200-yard medley relay as a team of Anderson, Langelund, junior Nathaniel Rafe and senior Andreas Scocos finished at 1:39.05.
5. Badger boys cross-country’s banner yearIn the 2019 season, the Badger boys cross-country team showed plenty of promise with a roster loaded with sophomores. Last fall, that potential was realized in a 2020 season.
The Badgers’ first triumph came thanks to a newcomer to the team, as sophomore Jackson Albanese broke the school’s cross-country record. Albanese, who moved into the Lake Geneva area from McHenry prior to the school year, ran a time of 15:59 during an Oct. 3 meet, topping the prior best time of 16:07 set by Alex Martinez in 2014.
About two weeks later, the Badgers had their first major team accomplishment when they won the Southern Lakes Conference championship meet on Oct. 15, with their score of 32 points soundly defeating second-place Westosha Central’s 70.
On Oct. 24, the Badgers won their sectional meet, earning the team a spot at state for only the second time in school history.
Once they hit the course at Arrowhead High School in Hartland on Oct. 31, the Badgers had their strongest state performance. Not only was the sixth-place team finish the highest the strongest placement in program history, Albanese took 11th place in Badger’s best boys individual runner as well.
With much of the team back again next season, the future is still bright for the Badgers.
4. Pair of hoops players hit 1,000 pointsIn the span of six days, a pair of local boys basketball players hit career-defining milestones as Big Foot junior Gus Foster and Williams Bay senior Ben Venteicher scored their 1,000th points.
First up was Foster, who hit 1,000 on Feb. 3 in a 63-57 home win over cross-lake rival Badger. In doing so, he became Big Foot’s fifth boys player to score 1,000 points, though the first to do so in his junior season.
What allowed Foster to do what no other Big Foot player before him could? According to Chiefs head coach Hunter Price, it is because Foster’s dedication to perfectionism is second to none.
“He always wants to know how he can get better and improve and that’s rare. So many people don’t want to be told they’re not good enough,” Price said. “He doesn’t settle with a good game. He wants a great game every night.”
Just six days later and six miles away, Venteicher surpassed his own 1,000-point milestone in a 85-37 home win over Albany.
When Venteicher hit 999 points midway through the second half, he did not know how close he was to hitting 1,000, but head coach Troy Nottestad did. In an effort to help his senior star, the coach began drawing up plays designed for Venteicher to score.
Instead, the senior did what he has done his whole career: helped his teammates.
“We kept calling plays for him and he kept dishing it away and they’re making shots. He’s a team player, he’s unselfish,” Nottestad said.
Eventually, Venteicher scored on a put-back after a rebound to surpass the 1,000-point plateau.
3. Tennis stars earn bronze medalsAs if it was not exciting enough for Lake Geneva to host last fall’s girls tennis state tournament, a pair of local players rose through the ranks to finish in third place as Badger junior Zaya Iderzul took third in the Division 1 singles bracket and Big Foot/Williams Bay junior Emily Gauger placed third in Division 2.
For Iderzul, it was another fantastic finish in her postseason career, after finishing as the state runner-up during her sophomore season in 2019.
For Gauger, it was a step up from her prior performances after she earned a top-16 finish in 2019 alongside doubles partner Clare Heckert.
With both girls set to return in the fall of 2021, there could be more podium placements in each of their futures.
2. Big Foot/Williams Bay track shatters records in postseasonA strong season for a track and field program might feature a single school record being broken.
When the Big Foot/Williams Bay team broke four records over the course of a week, including multiple breaks in three of the four events, it was an eye-popping display of the 2021 team’s strength.
In the team’s regional meet on June 15, freshman Kaden Rambatt broke the boys pole vault record, while junior Annie Murphy set the girls pole vault record, as well long jump record.
The duo broke those three records again two days later during the team’s sectional meet in Whitewater, while Murphy added another record to her resume, snapping the school’s prior best mark in the triple jump.
If all that was not enough, both athletes broke records at the state meet a week later as they finished among the best athletes in Wisconsin. Rambatt hit a jump of 14-feet, 3-inches to finish as the state runner up, while Murphy’s height of 12 feet in the pole vault and her triple jump of 37 feet, 5.25 inches both earned her not only the school record, but a state championship as well.
1. Williams Bay/Union Grove/Wilmot gymnastics wins state titleAfter the WUW co-op placed second in the 2019-20 state meet, the team vaulted into the top spot this past winter, winning a state championship with a team score of 145.800, beating out Arrowhead’s score of 143.375.
The co-op did not just see team success, though, as the individuals on the team consistently finished near the top of various leaderboards in the meet as well.
Before she went on to be a track and field state champion, Murphy won the floor exercise, her second individual state title in the event after being a co-champion in the floor in 2019-20. Senior Jadyn Pye was an individual champion as well, finishing first in the uneven bars as a co-champion with Miranda Knabe of Menomonee Falls/Germantown.
The duo also earned additional medals as Murphy was sixth in the vault and Pye tied for fourth in the floor exercise. Sophomore Leeza Patterson claimed a pair of medals too, taking fifth in the balance beam and tying for sixth in the floor exercise.
Murphy nearly won the all-around competition, taking second overall, and Pye was close behind in sixth place.