The 2014-15 Waunakee Warriors Women’s Soccer season opened on Monday with a preseason scrimmage against state powerhouse, Catholic Memorial. It was a relatively warm March evening with clear skies, a good day for some good soccer on Goodman Pitch at Reddan Soccer Park. Even though this was a friendly, the full set of referees and good crowd turnout gave this event the atmosphere of something a little more.

The Catholic Memorial Crusaders finished last season as the WIAA Division III State Champions. The Crusader’s star forward, Emily Cervantes, is coming back from an incredible 66 goal season, but is also returning from a meniscus surgery. The Crusaders made the hour trip from Waukesha, and came ready to play.

The Waunakee Warriors finished last season with a record of 24-5-0, and were the WIAA Division II State Champions. They are returning 9 players from last season, and are adding some tremendously talented young girls, including 3 freshman and 5 sophomores. While possibly a little less experienced than years past, the ball skills of this team are unrivaled in the state of Wisconsin.

The format of the scrimmage was three 25 minute periods. The Warriors started in their traditional 3-4-3 formation. Certain starters were not available for the game, so some underclassmen were called up to fill in right from the get go. Freshmans Grace Mecham and Jade Barma were tasked with filling the center midfield roles, arguably the most important position on the field. While there were some areas for improvement, they both performed very well, and will be able to fill the role again if starters Kaelin Franklin (Sr.) or Olivia Zaleski (Sr.) need a rest. Also getting a trial by fire were Mackenzie Blang (So.) and Hannah McLaughlin (Fr.). Blang started as a forward for the Warriors, and was able to show off her incredible speed. In any type of open space foot race, it was tough for any Crusader to keep up with her. While she is still young and less experienced, she has a lot of raw skill the coaches are excited to develop. McLaughlin started the game as an outside midfielder. From watching her play even for a few minutes, it’s easy to see she has had excellent coaching throughout her youth. She is always positioned where she needs to be and always makes excellent decisions, both on and off the ball.

The Warriors only return 1 starting defender, Michigan University recruit, Jada Dayne. Dayne has been the anchor at the center of the defense for the Warriors for the past 2 years, but is tasked this year with bringing in two new starting outside defenders. Jordan Haag (Jr) and Karly Keller (Sr) were both substitute defenders at the end of the season last year, and are fighting to take those starting spots. Hot on their heels, though, are fellow Juniors Cassidy Johnson, Alexandra Heinemann, and Kesang Chomor.

The first period was controlled predominantly by the Warriors. They kept a majority possession of the ball, and stayed in the Crusader’s defensive half. They had a couple decent looks at the net, but no real goal scoring opportunities. While the lack of shots may be disappointing the possession and ball movement can be seen as a huge positive for the Warriors. The name of the game is ‘Possession’, and is a great base to build on. With this solid base, the attack and the goals will come as the season progresses.

The second period was more evenly matched. The Crusader’s star forward, Cervantes, came into the game, and was placed head to head with Dayne. The duo saw a lot of the ball, including some isolated 1-on-1s. While each encounter was hard fought, Dayne emerged the victor in each. Keep an eye out for both of their names, as they are both poised to have excellent seasons. Both teams continued to share possession in this period, but the Crusaders were able to sneak one goal in.

In the third period, Waunakee Coach Jesus Torres, put his youngest lineup in to get them some much needed playing time and experience. While there were obviously some areas for improvement, they held their own and played even with the Crusaders. Cassidy Johnson and Alli Heinemann did a good job as the two central defenders, and controlled their back line well. Outside midfielders Abby Johnson (So) and Samantha Pavlik (So) were also able to display their skills.

Like previously stated, this was a scrimmage in name only. This matchup was some of the best girl’s soccer you will see in the state, and possibly even the country. Both teams are poised to have excellent seasons, and we fully expect to see both of them back at Uihlein Soccer Park this June for the State Tournament.