By Tim Wester

Sports Correspondent

“Five-time, Five-time, Five-time.”

That is what kept repeating in the heads of the Union Grove High School girls soccer team last May, when the Lady Broncos lost 2-1 to Burlington, coming up one goal short of dethroning the now five-time defending Southern Lakes Conference champions.

The Broncos haven’t forgotten that game by any stretch, especially when they return the bulk of their roster from last year’s team, which accounted for 16 wins to finish as conference runner-up.

“I hope we can overtake Burlington this year,” Union Grove coach Sean Jung said. “But there is plenty of soccer to be played before then.”

It is hard to blame Jung for being cautiously optimistic with Burlington fielding another strong team that could challenge for a state championship.

The Demons, however, will be without talented midfielder Amelia Crabtree this season.

Elkhorn, another conference contender, faces the task of replacing Olivia May.

Those losses could open the door for the Grove, who returns a loaded and experienced roster.

Juniors Alexa Panyk (20 goals and 10 assists), and Natalie Oatsvall (12 goals, 7 assists), both of whom have been vital in the Broncos recent success, return to lead the offensive attack.

Sophomores Kendra Hoffman (11 goals, 9 assists), Peyton Killberg (12 goals, 4 assists), Megan Barber (6 goals, 10 assists) round out a deep and talented group of returning scorers

Juniors Daphne Sieg and Carlista Panyk, meanwhile, will anchor the Broncos defense in front of sophomore goalie Mia Guyton, who posted an impressive 16 shutouts last season.

Other contributors include senior Nixie Grajera, junior Brienna McLain, and sophomore Abby Lentz.

“Needless to say, I feel very good about our team because we will be hard to score on and even harder to keep from scoring,” Jung said. “What we lack in size, we make up for with speed quickness and character.”

In addition to second place in the SLC, the Broncos also look to improve upon their WIAA Division 1 regional final appearance, where they dropped a 3-1 decision to New Berlin Eisenhower.

To help bolster the team for a stronger finish this season, the Broncos will play a strong non-conference schedule that includes road games at Kenosha Tremper, Wauwatosa East, and Waukesha West.

Union Grove will also host Racine St. Catherine’s and Racine Prairie in May.

“We have a very challenging schedule that begins at Kenosha Tremper,” Jung said. “Add that to a tough conference with Burlington and Elkhorn, and our competition will be tough throughout the regular season.”

“If our girls stay together and work hard, we will be very tough to beat this spring.”

And the rest of the area will undoubtedly take notice.