WIAA boys soccer photo: Oregon's Collin Bjerke on the move

Host Oregon's Collin Bjerke advances past Monona Grove's Daniel Grady in Thursday's WIAA Division 2 boys soccer sectional semifinal. Bjerke scored a second-half goal and Zachary Bennett followed late for the Panthers.



The Panthers are reigning state champions: Oregon won the WIAA Division 2 state championship last season, but return only one starter, Collin Bjerke. “Last year was special, no doubt,” Oregon coach Chris Mitchell said. “But it is a new year, and we are very much looking forward to working with a largely new group of boys as we look to defend the Badger South title and advance to the state tourney for the third consecutive year.” However, Mitchell expects Monona Grove to be the Badger South Conference favorite.

Verona leads the Big Eight pack: Verona won its first Big Eight Conference title last year. However, Sun Prairie made its first Division 1 state appearance last season, led by high-scoring Kyle Hagerman. Sun Prairie toppled Verona in a sectional semifinal, and the Wildcats are hoping to advance further this season after that setback. Verona enters as the favorite, with Madison East, Madison West, Middleton and Madison Memorial figuring to be title contenders. “The last couple years, Middleton and Sun Prairie have thrived off some standout players, but we’re going to watch some of the Madison schools and Verona show solid team performance this year,” said Verona coach Chris Handrick, last year’s Big Eight coach of the year.

Back for more: McFarland won its fourth consecutive Rock Valley Conference title and reached the WIAA Division 3 state title game in 2018. McFarland defeated Plymouth 2-0 in the state semifinal, before losing to Milwaukee Pius XI 3-1 in the title match. The Spartans are eager for another strong season.


Collin Bjerke, sr., midfielder, Oregon — Bjerke, who has orally committed to Drake University, helped lead Oregon to the WIAA Division 2 boys soccer state title last year. He was a first-team (“the first 11”) all-state selection by the coaches, earned first-team Badger South Conference recognition and was first team on the Wisconsin State Journal All-Area team. He’s a “playmaker (with) very gifted foot skills,” Oregon coach Chris Mitchell said.

Sam Lynch, sr., defender, Verona — Lynch anchored the Wildcats’ stingy defense and helped lead Verona to its first Big Eight Conference title in 2018. Lynch was a first-team selection on the Big Eight all-conference team and was a coaches’ all-state choice.

Robbie Paredes, sr., defender, Madison East – Paredes was a first-team all-Big Eight selection as a defender last year.

Jack Knight, sr., forward, Verona – Knight was a first-team all-Big Eight selection and was on the coaches’ all-state team last year, helping the Wildcats’ win the league title. He was a first-team All-Area selection.

Ethan Nichols, sr., forward, McFarland – Nichols, who had 25 goals and 12 assists in 2018, was a first-team choice in the Rock Valley Conference and was named to the coaches’ all-state team. He was a first-team All-Area selection and helped lead the Spartans to a WIAA Division 3 state runner-up finish.

Eliot Popkewitz, sr., midfielder, Verona — Popkewitz was a first-team all-Big Eight performer who led the conference champion Wildcats in goal scoring.

Jack Bell, jr., goalkeeper, Madison Memorial: The Spartans starting goalkeeper and a captain is considered one of the Big Eight’s top keepers. “He’s our Spider-Man,” Madison Memorial coach Chad Amini said. “(He) can get to anything coming at the goal.”

Josh Cervantes, sr., forward, Madison East – Cervantes had 16 goals and three assists last year for the Purgolders.

Evan Carlson, sr., forward, Sauk Prairie — The high-scoring Carlson, who had 26 goals and 12 assists in 2018, was an all-Badger North Conference pick. He was a first-team All-Area selection.

Peter Tuttle, sr., midfielder, Middleton – Tuttle, who was a second-team all-Big Eight defender last season, is described by Middleton coach Ben Kollasch as “a force of nature on the field. He is versatile and can attack as well as defend.”

Isaac Becker, sr., midfielder, Monona Grove – The versatile Becker, who can play forward, midfielder or defense, was a first-team all-Badger South Conference performer as a midfielder last year.

Cole Kettner, so., center midfielder, Waunakee -- Kettner was a second-team all-conference pick in the Badger North who led the Warriors in assists and was among their top scorers last year. 


(Based on information provided by coaches)


Conference overview: Defending champion Verona is the league coaches’ favorite, with Madison East as a solid choice for second and Madison West and Middleton expected to battle for third.

Verona: The Wildcats won the Big Eight title for the first time last year with a 7-0-2 mark (14-3-3 overall) and were a top seed in postseason, prior to falling to Sun Prairie in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal. Fourteen letterwinners and nine starters return for coach Chris Handrick. Verona is led by a trio of first-team all-conference performers in defender Sam Lynch, forward Jack Knight and midfielder Eliot Popkewitz. Others expected to be key contributors include defenders Tavion McNuckle and Brooks Luttinen, forwards Jonathan Gamez and Bennett Luttinen and midfielders Gannon Simmonett and Sam Abreu.

Madison East: The Purgolders will be powered by senior forward Josh Cervantes, a four-year varsity player who has quickness and technical ability, and senior defender Robbie Paredes, a first-team all-conference defender who again will anchor the back line, Madison East coach Kyle Koenig said. Cervantes and Paredes are two of the top players in the conference, Koenig said. Seniors Krishna Kashian and Ben Bauman return in the midfield. Senior goalkeeper Richard Hernandez, senior defender Kody Hellenbrand, junior defender Nick Hildal and junior midfielders Davis Nelson and David Blair are among the returners who started last year. “I think our team will be at the top of the conference race all season,” Koenig said.

Madison West: Pat Bauch is the Regents’ new coach, replacing Drew Kornish, who took the boys coaching job at Sauk Prairie. Bauch, a 2004 Madison West graduate, has been a Regents' assistant since 2006. The Regents have five starters and 13 letterwinners returning from a 9-2-5 overall team (4-1-3 in conference) that lost in a shootout to Wales Kettle Moraine in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal. Bauch anticipates his team contending for the conference crown this season. Top returners include midfielder Tonio Ermakoff and defender Peter Kraus. Bauch said the team has two excellent goalkeepers in Oscar Herrera and Johannes Berghahn. The Regents must replace key graduated players, including midfielder Will Taylor, goalkeeper Alex Alvarado and forward Ian Shi.

Middleton: Seventh-year coach Ben Kollasch’s team has 13 letterwinners returning, including five starters, senior central defender Cian Carlson, senior central defender Blake Kalscheur, senior defender Nick Castillo, senior midfielder Peter Tuttle and senior forward Isaac Gueu. Tuttle, a second-team all-Big Eight choice as a defender last year, is a versatile player who can attack and defend, according to Kollasch. Junior Ezra Joseph and senior Max Rateau also should be key contributors for a team Kollasch believes should compete for the conference title. The Cardinals have a defense led by experienced personnel and a wave of eager new talent. “If we can get the returning seniors and the talented new order to mesh, we can rival the best in the state,” Kollasch said.

Madison Memorial: The Spartans are led by a strong junior class, coach Chad Amini said. They have 12 letterwinners and five starters returning. Jack Bell, a junior and a captain, returns as the starting goalkeeper. Senior defenders Kevin Johnson and Erik Genskow, also captains, lead the backline, while junior Simon Kaldor will be key in the midfield. Kaldor came off the bench as a center midfielder last year and Amini said he has high expectations for Kaldor “winning and distributing tons of balls in the middle of the field this year.” Amini believes the Spartans will be in the mix for a high finish in the Big Eight. “Our goal is always to win conference, but realistically we should be in the top four,” Amini said.

Sun Prairie: Second-year coach Tok Kim lost 19 letterwinners, including high-scoring striker and league player of the year Kyle Hagerman and Andrew Weddle, from last year’s WIAA Division 1 state semifinalist. Five letterwinners return. The Cardinals will be led by junior midfielder Johnathan Trilling and junior goalkeeper Tanner Scherer. With the loss of Butler commit Hagerman to graduation, Kim plans to change the team’s approach. “Last year, we focused on getting the ball to Kyle, and score more than other teams,” Kim said. “This season, however, we do not have a prolific goal scorer comparable to Kyle. Hence, we will change our style of game to a possession game, and limit opponent's scoring opportunities.” Trilling and sophomore midfielder Logan Parrish will lead the possession game, while attacking midfielder Lukas Hoelzl, a foreign-exchange student from Germany, has joined the roster. Senior Noah Michalski is sidelined for the season by injury, Kim said. Michalski, Trilling and senior defender Mason Birkrem will serve as captains.

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Beloit Memorial: The Purple Knights have 14 returning letterwinners and five starters, though the lineup will be in flux early on due to several player absences at the beginning of the season, coach Brian Denu said. Denu has a mix of veteran and younger players and is buoyed by the team’s promising group of freshmen and sophomores. “This will be our youngest team in my 11 years as varsity coach,” Denu said. Seniors Bernardo Plascenia, Devin Stavn and Brian Delatorre and juniors Omar Munoz, David Almanza and Johnny Leon return as more experienced players. Leon, the team’s top returning scorer, is expected to return from injury in mid-September, Denu said. Almanza, sophomore Leonzo Melendez and junior James Castellanos are goalkeepers for Beloit Memorial. Freshman midfielders Baylor Denu and Britton Sala and freshman defender Tomas Giles should make an immediate impact, Brian Denu said. Sophomores Eamonn Rougvie, Evan James and Rosario Escalero also are expected to contribute. “We are looking to a very bright future,” Denu said.

Madison La Follette (expected to be led by defender Brett Schneider and midfielder Erick Antimo), Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker will look to challenge.


Conference overview: Defending conference champion and WIAA Division 2 state champion Oregon and Monona Grove are expected to duel for the title, with Madison Edgewood viewed as the top challenger.

Monona Grove: Coach Randy Becker said his team might be one of the most talented Monona Grove has had and believes the Silver Eagles will challenge defending WIAA Division 2 state champion Oregon for the conference title. “With most of the offense returning from last year, Monona Grove should be a very dangerous team,” Becker said. First-team all-conference pick Isaac Becker (50 points) and Zach Zielke (49 points) return as top scorers and will be complemented by seniors Daniel Grady and Jacob Munz. Juniors Conner Bracken, Muhammed Kambi, Exander Rains, Brock Drake, John Jahn and Ignacio Gatica have considerable varsity experience. Eleven letterwinners return from a team that finished as conference runner-up and lost to Oregon 2-0 in the Division 2 sectional semifinals last year.

Oregon: The defending WIAA Division 2 state champions and Badger South champions, who finished undefeated in league play last year and 20-2-2 overall, lost 17 letterwinners and all their starters, except four-year starter and all-state player Collin Bjerke. Five letterwinners return, led by playmaker Bjerke, who had 20 goals and 17 assists last year and recently orally committed to Drake University. Defensive midfielder Aaron Kluck played significant minutes off the bench last year and had eight goals and five assists. Ethan Vandermause is expected to contribute at outside back. “This will likely be the most inexperienced team Oregon has fielded in many years, but we feel there is lots of upside to this group,” Oregon coach Chris Mitchell said.

Madison Edgewood: After advancing to the Division 3 sectional final and falling to McFarland last year, Edgewood returns 13 letterwinners and starters Nick Stacey, Nathan Golden, Henry Robertson and Ben Stitgen. Stacey, a team captain, leads the way. “(We) lost a lot of skill, leadership and experience in our senior class from last season, so will be looking for several of our current seniors and juniors to step up and fill those roles,” Crusaders coach Chris Martinelli said. “I believe we have a group that is ready to do that.”

Stoughton: Coach Michael McIntosh returns nine letterwinners, including starters Colin Holtan, Jacob Ferguson, A.J. Mittelsteadt and Jaden Clausen, from a team that finished 11-7-3 overall and 4-2-1 and tied for third in league play. Senior center back Holtan and senior Ferguson lead the backline. McIntosh said junior forward/midfielder Mittelsteadt is back from injury and will lead the attack. Clausen, a junior, is a defending midfielder. Senior defender Evan Herbst, senior forward Derek Karlen and junior forward Henry Mehring also are expected to be top contributors. “We are a young team, but we are hungry and willing to work hard toward our goals of competing every game to our greatest potential,” McIntosh said.

Monroe: The Cheesemakers, who were winless in league play but 5-6-2 in other matches, return 10 letterwinners and coach Kyle Kasten hopes to build off success the team enjoyed later in 2018. Two-year captain Aaron Ziolkowski leads the way, along with fellow seniors Alex Barradas, Aidan Lambert and Heath Bear and junior Roman Bauer. Sophomores also expected to contribute include Charlie Frehner, Sam Tinoco, Alex Torres, Jason Carpenter and John Reinders. “The team will be young, but is comprised of a hard-working, determined core of leaders,” said Kasten, in his second year coaching Monroe’s boys team.


Conference overview: Defending league champion Waunakee is favored to repeat, with Mount Horeb, Sauk Prairie and DeForest expected to challenge.

Waunakee: The Warriors won the Badger North with a 6-0-1 record last season and finished 13-3-4 overall, reaching the sectional semifinal round in Division 2. The Warriors lost 14 letterwinners and nine starters from that team, but 10 letterwinners and five starters return for coach Dave Kettner, who said he expects Waunakee to be even stronger and more balanced this season. Sophomore center midfielder Cole Kettner, a second-team all-conference pick who was among the Warriors’ top scorers and led the team in assists as a freshman, will run the attack. Top scoring candidates are expected to be junior center forward/midfielder Nathan Dresen, a three-year starter; senior forward Sam Acker, a four-year starter and second-team all-conference choice who was third on the team in goals scored in 2018; and senior forward Jacob Mouille, second on the team in goals scored. Waunakee will need to rely on its scoring because its defense is young. “I expect Waunakee to compete again for the Badger North title and make a strong showing during the state playoffs,” said Dave Kettner, noting Waunakee now will compete in WIAA Division 1 in postseason. He said Cole Kettner and Dresen, who had limited playing time last year while returning from injury, are receiving NCAA Division I interest.

Mount Horeb: Mount Horeb and DeForest tied for second in conference play last year. The Vikings return 11 letterwinners off a team that fell in a shootout 5-4 to Madison Edgewood in a Division 3 sectional semifinal. Senior forward Gabriel Guenther (seven goals, nine assists) and junior forward Tyler Banfield (seven goals) lead the attack. Senior Connor Long (four goals, two assists) will move to wing after playing central striker. Senior midfielder Ian Santoirre and senior center back George Schultz return. “We should be in the mix in the Badger North Conference,” said Vikings coach Mark Newman, entering his 22nd season. “We struggled last year to replace our graduated attacking players. This year we have more returning players and experience throughout the lineup. We have our most uncertainty in the midfield, but we have good players there. If that group comes together, we could compete for trophies.”

Sauk Prairie: Drew Kornish, who had been the Madison West coach the past two years, is the new Eagles’ coach — replacing Trevor Van Laanen. The Eagles have 13 letterwinners returning. Kornish’s team has experience with 10 seniors on the 17-player roster. “This year will test Sauk Prairie boys soccer,” Kornish said. “With a new coach coming in, the program is in a transition period.” Still, Kornish believes the Eagles will contend for a top-three conference finish. Kornish anticipates that senior Evan Carlson, who had 26 goals and 12 assists last year, will receive much attention from opposing teams. But that, Kornish said, should open opportunities for senior Blake Gibbs and sophomore Sam Drescher and their teammates.

DeForest: Eight letterwinners and starters Evan Ridd, Conlan Gotzion, Drew Ciesielczyk and Kennedy Wallace return from a 9-4-4 team that tied for second in conference play in 2018. Ridd, a senior captain, played outside back last year, but the aggressive, versatile player might see time as a midfielder this year, third-year coach Kevin Krivacek said. Gotzion, a senior captain, likely will play midfield, and Wallace might shift more to the attack after used in the back last year. Adam Horton is expected to contribute, also. Krivacek hopes to build off the past two winning seasons. “I see a really strong work ethic from our players in the program,” said Krivacek, who also likes his team’s intelligence and understanding of the game. “Our seniors are demonstrating what it means to work hard and lead from example.”


Belleville/New Glarus: Bob Gentilli will be in his first year as head coach after serving as an assistant for the boys and girls. Sugar River was 9-0-0 in conference play and 14-2-1 overall last year, falling to eventual state runner-up McFarland in a WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal. The Raiders lost 10 seniors, including conference player of the year Jack Gentilli and all-conference first-teamers Justin Knoebl, Connor DeLorme and Jaden Kreklow. Returning seniors include goalkeeper Julian Lutz, midfielder/defender Noah Ziperski, midfielder/forward Tyler Lueschow, defender/midfielder Charlie Douma, defender/midfielder Owen Odegard, defender/forward David Murray, defender/midfielder Garrett James, defender Charlie Tollefson and forward/midfielder Bryson Jelle.

Lodi: Zachary Nelson takes over as the Blue Devils’ coach and he believes the team is ready to make a move up the conference standings after an 8-11-1 overall record last year. Nine letterwinners return, including starters Patrick Trienen, Nathaniel Karls, Matt Brisky and Ben Zieser. “This team is more technically sound than teams in years past,” Nelson said. “If this team can create opportunities consistently and match other teams’ physicality, they will be successful this year.” Karls, a senior forward, creates quality chances and sparks the offense, Nelson said. Brisky, a captain and senior center midfielder, controls the match’s pace. Zieser, a captain and senior defender, anchors the defense and is a tenacious player, Nelson said.

Columbus: Coach Paul Genco is looking for his team to make move up in the standings after finishing eighth in league play (1-7-1, 4-16-4 overall) in 2018.

Lakeside Lutheran: Eric Dorn begins his first season as a high school varsity head coach. He previously was an assistant for the Martin Luther College women’s soccer team in New Ulm, Minnesota. Junior Carter Roelke and sophomore Nathaniel Krenke were selected as captains. The Warriors will be young, with most of the players in the junior and sophomore classes. Dorn believes the team has a solid foundation and a commitment and determination among the players after Lakeside Lutheran finished 7-9-0 overall, including 5-4-0 in Capitol Conference play.


McFarland: The Spartans finished 19-5-0, including 8-0 and in first place in conference play, en route to a trip to the Division 3 state championship match. McFarland graduated several key seniors including Caleb Blair, but 16 letterwinners and nine seniors return. “We are expecting another great year if we can stay fit and healthy,” McFarland coach Brett Ogorzalek said. Senior forward Ethan Nichols and senior midfielder Brett Connor, both first-team all-conference players, lead the way. Nichols is a potent scorer, while Connor has been the team’s starting defensive midfielder since he was a freshman. Sophomore goalkeeper Matt Schutt proved to be a mainstay in the net in 2018. Senior defender/midfielder Ian Loss is a defensive specialist and senior forward Vince Seils is dangerous on the wing, Ogorzalek said. Other significant contributors include junior center midfielder Jake Sampson and junior center backs Jackson Werwinski and Carter Mroviec. Nichols’ brother Zach is a top-notch sophomore forward and Connor’s brother Kyle is a talented sophomore midfielder, Ogorzalek said. Ogorzalek believes East Troy, Jefferson and Evansville with Jackson Stencil will be top challengers in league action.

Edgerton: Eighth-year coach Dean Wanless has 11 letterwinners returning, including starters Alec Frawley, Quinn Kotnour, Noah Russ, Chase Peterson and Jackson Hankes, and believes the back line will be the team’s strength. Frawley, a sophomore, has excellent instincts and will lead the back line while Kotnour is a hard-working, unselfish midfielder, Wanless said. Edgerton will seek constant improvement after it went winless in the Rock Valley and in the regular season last year, before tying Adams-Friendship and advancing by winning the shootout in its postseason opener.


WIAA Division 1 and 2 regionals — Oct. 22 and Oct. 26.

WIAA Division 3 and 4 regionals — Oct. 22, 24 and 26.

WIAA sectionals — Oct. 31 and Nov. 2.

WIAA state tournament — Nov. 7-9, Uihlein Soccer Park, Milwaukee.


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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.