Westine Report Top Sports Stories of 2017

Union Grove’s Alexa Panyk avoides a slew of bodies in a match last spring. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Tim Wester

Sports Correspondent

The Union Grove High School athletic program had plenty of unforgettable moments in 2017.

The Westine Report takes a closer look back at some of the triumphs, failures and tear-jerking moments in its top 10 for 2017.

 

  1. McMahon shakes off injuries to compete at the WIAA Division 1 State Track and Field Championships

Although the results weren’t up to her high standards, McMahon’s final high school race on a hot Saturday afternoon in La Crosse symbolized the best in Wisconsin high school sports. Battling a back injury that would have sidelined most runners, McMahon persevered through the grueling Division 1 3200-meter championship race.

After crossing the finish line with a time of 12:36.05, the Murray State (Ky.) recruit ignored the pain for a moment longer to reflect on a memorable high school career.

“Riley’s back was pretty bad during the race itself, and when she finished, she had numbness in her arms and wasn’t perspiring at all,” Union Grove track coach Mike Mikula said. “Her ability to handle pain and continue to overcome and persevere paid off this season.”

McMahon’s unmatched competitiveness helped her earn two straight state championship appearances in track and another in cross country in 2016.

“Riley is the best girls distance runner that I’ve coached in my career that stretches over 20 years,” Mikula said. “You just don’t get a competitor and talented performer like McMahon every day. She is an athlete that comes around over 10 or 20 years.”

 

  1. Golfers Chambers and Brown advance to state

Sometimes things click at the right moment. That’s what happened for Eric Chambers and Connor Brown.

Chambers won the WIAA Division 1 Waukesha South Sectional with a 73, while Brown finished just three strokes behind as the Bronco duo punched their tickets to the WIAA state championship.

The senior Chambers then took on the narrow fairways at the fabled University Ridge Golf Course to finish 30th overall at state, while the sophomore Brown was 36th.

 

CJ Mauer (left) and Nico Zelinger discuss a point with their opponents during the conference tournament. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

  1. CJ Maurer and Nico Zeilinger compete at state tennis

Maurer and Zeilinger got to play one final round of tennis together at the WIAA Division 1 State Championship in Madison last June.

Despite losing its opening match at state, the duo will be remembered for its unexpected success. The doubles team literally came together on a whim after Zeilinger, an exchange-student from Germany, decided to try out for tennis last spring. Zeilinger immediately gelled with Maurer, making them an obvious choice for doubles competition.

From there, Union Grove’s answer to the Odd Couple quickly developed a synergy on and off the court that helped them make last season fun for everyone. The duo, however, didn’t have much time to enjoy its season as Zeilinger returned to Germany just two days after its final match. Although they are separated by an ocean, Zeilinger and Maurer will always have the bond of competing at the state championship together.

 

  1. Koch and Bianchi earn honorable mention all-state

Senior golfers Megan Koch and Jackie Bianchi have enjoyed as much success as just about any golfer in school history. The Broncos’ duo helped lead the way to three Southern Lakes Conference championships and two state tournament appearances in 2015 and 2016.

Koch and Bianchi’s efforts helped them earn honorable mention all-state selections. Koch and Bianchi are two of many golfers that are helping Union Grove develop into one of the area’s top programs, evidenced by six straight Southern Lakes Conference titles.

 

The Union Grove girls basketball team poses Friday night after clinching its third consecutive SLC crown. Players and coaches are putting a “3” sign in the air. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

  1. Girls basketball captures third straight SLC crown

Union Grove girls basketball coach Rob Domagalski has prided his program on consistency. But after the successes of the past few seasons, the program is arguably as good as ever. Led by Southern Lakes Conference Player of the Year Janelle Shiffler and first-team all-conference selection Brooklyn Bull, the Broncos finished 12-2 in the Southern Lakes Conference to earn a third straight championship last winter.

Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 season, the Broncos have gone 39-5 in the Southern Lakes Conference, and are the favorites to win a fourth straight title this season.

 

  1. Boys soccer rewrites record books

To say the boys soccer team had a memorable regular season would be an understatement. The Broncos set new school records in wins (15), least number of losses (4), number of shutouts (8), and were ranked as high as eighth in the state Division 2 rankings last spring.

Union Grove also had its highest finish ever in the Southern Lakes Conference (third place) after knocking off Lake Geneva Badger 5-3.

The streaking Broncos had their sights on defending state champion Delavan-Darien late in the season, with coach Sean Jung guaranteeing victory. But a strong second half by the Comets helped them earn a 3-2 victory and ruin Jung’s guarantee.

After having their best season in program history, Jung and the Broncos are now tasked with catching Delavan-Darien and Elkhorn, the top two programs in the Lakes.

 

Kallista Hribar was a power machine in 2017. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

  1. Kalista Hribar socks a conference-best 17 home runs

In 2016, Hribar hit her share of fly ball outs. But after Hribar’s extensive offseason training program, those fly balls often flew over the wall in 2017. Hribar, a catcher, earned Southern Lakes Newspapers Player of the Year after hitting a whopping .658 and belting a ridiculous 17 home runs to lead the Broncos.

In one unforgettable week last April, Hribar went 10-for-12 with four home runs, three doubles, and a triple. Hribar was undoubtedly a must-see attraction in a transition season that saw the Broncos finish 10-14 overall under new coach Tom Odell.

 

  1. Girls soccer advances to program’s first SLC final

The Union Grove girls soccer team was certain five times was the charm.

Playing in the program’s first Southern Lakes Conference final against four-time defending champion Burlington, the young Broncos gave the Demons all they could handle before dropping a heart-breaking 2-1 loss last May.

Despite the tough loss, the Broncos won a school record 16 games last spring with a roster full of underclassmen. With a loaded roster returning next year, the Broncos have a chance to finally overtake the Demons in the Southern Lakes Conference.

 

  1. Brooklyn Bull reaches 1,000-point milestone

Bull became just the fourth player in program history to exceed the 1,000-career point mark earlier this season. The remarkable achievement is just the latest in a long list of accomplishments for Bull.

In the senior’s first year with the Broncos, the team came within a basket of making its first-ever state-tournament appearance in a 36-35 overtime loss to Stoughton.

Last year, Bull helped the Broncos earn a third straight conference championship and a No. 1 seed in the WIAA Division 2 playoffs.

Since Bull became a starter in 2015, the Broncos have won 28 of 32 conference games and two conference championships. With the Broncos off to a 9-1, 4-0 record this season, the third-year starter is a favorite to win Southern Lakes Conference Player of the Year.

 

  1. Road playoff victory highlights boys hoops late-season surge

In early February, the Broncos were in the midst of a three-game losing streak that dropped their overall record to 8-8. Just when the season was slipping away, the Broncos put it together, winning six of their final eight games, including a heart-pounding 51-47 victory at Elkhorn in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal.

Point guard Jack Pettit’s turnaround jumper in the lane followed by a steal at midcourt and pass up court to Riley Hale for a three-point play in the final minute helped seal the victory.

Although the Broncos would lose their next game to Westosha Central, the late-season surge gave the Grove plenty of momentum heading into this season. The Broncos are already 3-0 in the Lakes this season with three conference road victories, making Union Grove a contender for a conference title.

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