Sports Stories of the Year
By Tim Wester
In a sports calendar full of triumphs and near misses, the Union Grove High School sports program had plenty of action-packed and record-breaking moments in 2016. Here are the 10 unforgettable moments and achievements from this past year.
1. Softball advances to the state tournament
For the seniors on the Union Grove softball team, the 2016 season was one of redemption and disappointment. After being eliminated by Westosha Central in the sectional finals the past two seasons, the Broncos finally got the better of the Falcons, 8-2, in a WIAA Division 1 Sectional final last spring.
The rewarding win propelled the Broncos to their first state tournament appearance since the state championship season of 2011.
With a chance to emulate the 2011 run, Union Grove slipped past Oshkosh North, 2-1, in the quarterfinals, and took a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning of its semifinal game against Watertown.
Then, just two outs away from the state title game, the Broncos made a series of uncharacteristic mistakes that helped Watertown tie the game in the seventh, and then score two more runs in the eighth to stun the Broncos, 5-3.
“My girls had a good season. It was a phenomenal season. Union Grove Ryan Boylen said. “It didn’t end the way we wanted it. Obviously we didn’t make the plays the way we know we’re capable of.”
2. Girls basketball makes sectional final for second time in school history
After racking up a share of the Southern Lakes Conference title, the Broncos cruised through the first three rounds of the WIAA Division 2 playoffs to earn the program’s second sectional final berth in school history.
While most experts picked the Broncos to succumb to third-ranked Stoughton in the finals, the Grove matched the Vikings shot for shot in regulation and forced overtime.
Then, Bronco sophomore guard Brooklyn Bull had a chance to send the Broncos to the state championship in the final seconds with a coast-to-coast drive, but her shot trickled off the rim at the buzzer, ending an unforgettable season on a heart-breaking note.
“I wanted them not just to represent Union Grove, but also Racine County,” Union Grove Rob Domagalski said. “I’m proud of them. The Broncos certainly didn’t let the county down.”
3. Union Grove ties a school record with 3 state-qualifying wrestlers
Three special moments, three uniquely different reactions.
That summed up the Union Grove wrestling team’s memorable day at a WIAA Division I Sectional tournament last winter.
For the second consecutive season and third time in school history, Union Grove had three wrestlers qualify for the state championship in Madison. Senior Brett Kieslich (126) punched his ticket to Madison for the second straight year, while seniors Aidan Gutierrez (170) and Evan Storm-Voltz (195) each earned their first trip to state.
The back-to-back state trio is coach Andy Weis’ reward for his efforts to make the Broncos a viable program in the Southern Lakes Conference, one of southeastern Wisconsin’s toughest wrestling conferences.
4. Alex Goodrich qualifies for state track for fourth straight season
Union Grove senior hurdler Alex Goodrich wasn’t supposed to be competing at the WIAA Division 1 state track and field championship this year.
Coming off two shoulder surgeries last fall, Goodrich missed most of the regular season, making her quest for a fourth straight trip to state unlikely. But in what Bronco track coach Mike Mikula called a true inspiration story, Goodrich not only qualified for the 300 hurdles for a fourth straight year, she finished fourth at state to realize her dream of standing on the championship podium last spring.
“Alex shouldn’t have been doing hurdles, but she got clearance just two weeks before the conference tournament after having two shoulder surgeries last fall,” Mikula said. “You talk about this story and think it’s a made-for-television movie.”
Goodrich will take her storybook high school career to Marquette, where she’ll compete for the Golden Eagles’ track and field team.
5. Riley McMahon reaches state in two sports
Riley McMahon proved to be as good of a competitor as any Union Grove athlete in 2016.
She parlayed her raw competitive edge into a second consecutive trip to the state cross country championship in the fall. McMahon also qualified for state in the 800 and 1,600 meter runs at the state track and field championships in La Crosse last June.
McMahon’s impressive 2016 helped land a scholarship to Murray State (Ky.), where she’ll continue her athletic career for the Racers.
6. Three years, three partners, three state trips
Union Grove senior girls tennis standout Allie Miller possesses a very particular set of skills that have allowed her to qualify for the state tournament in doubles competition three straight years with three different partners – a feat that no other has accomplished at Union Grove High School.
Miller and doubles partner Chloe Woods punched their ticket to state after knocking off Erin Dobrzynski and Samantha Ramsey of New Berlin Eisenhower 6-3, 6-4 at sectionals this past fall.
Miller had previously qualified for state doubles with Lauren Tuma in 2014 and Alyssa Leffler in 2015.
“I don’t think anybody can match what she has done,” Union Grove coach Mike Brannen said. It’s never been done before, and I don’t think it will ever be done again. It’s quite the accomplishment.”
7. Dam qualifies for state boys tennis
Last year Union Grove tennis player Alec Dam fell just one match short of qualifying for the state tournament last year in doubles competition.
This year, Dam took matters into his own hands. Dam became the first Bronco boys tennis player to qualify for the state tournament since David Leffler in 2014 by virtue of finishing third at the WIAA Division 1 Waukesha South Sectional May 26.
The sophomore qualified for state by winning his opening match against Lue Andrekus of Westosha Central, 7-5, 6-3, and then finished third overall at the WIAA Division 1 Waukesha South Sectional Thursday May 26.
8. Nelson becomes first Union Grove football player to be named All-Racine County Player of the year
In a conference full of talented quarterbacks, Matt Nelson stood alone at the top.
Nelson accounted for 2,358 of the Broncos 2,935 total offensive yards, and 31 of the team’s 36 touchdowns.
With a build that rivals most high school tight ends, Nelson pounded opposing defenses with 562 rushing yards, while using his elite passing arm to rack up nearly 1,800 yards. Matt is a true leader in every aspect of the word and is a total film junkie,” said Union Grove coach Craig McClelland.
“He did everything for us offensively. He truly did everything on his own because he didn’t have anybody else. He really has taken his game to the next level.”
After graduating from Union Grove this spring, Nelson will then move to play for NCAA Division 2 Minnesota State – Mankato next fall.
9. Eight freshmen lead girls soccer to school record
The future is certainly bright for Union Grove girls soccer coach Sean Jung’s program.
With the help of eight freshmen, who collectively scored more than half of the team’s goals in 2016, the Lady Broncos set school single-season records with 16 shutouts and 15 wins.
The Broncos finished third overall in the Southern Lakes Conference, which is also their best finish in school history.
“We had an impressive year,” Jung said. “With eight freshman that will now be sophomores next season, our future is very bright.”
10. Union Grove boys soccer duplicates ladies’ success
The Union Grove boys soccer program is also on the rise.
The Broncos set school single-season records in wins (11), fewest goals allowed in a season (39), and most shutouts (8).
“We finished 11-8-3 overall and finished in the top half of the Southern Lakes Conference for just the second time in school history,” Jung said. “With the exception of our 5-0 loss to the number-one ranked team in Delavan-Darien, we were in every game. Now we just have to build on our successes and take another step.”