Panyk’s goal proves to be the difference in close battle

 

The Union Grove soccer team poses after their first conference championship in school history Thursday night at Union Grove High School. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

UNION GROVE – The midfield team hug simply wasn’t going to be enough after a win this big.

So Daphne Sieg and the rest of her Union Grove girls soccer teammates, moments after a 1-0 victory Thursday night over Burlington for the conference championship, proceeded to keep the party going, dumping the Gatorade bucket of ice water on coach Sean Jung’s head.

This wasn’t just any conference title, it was the first in school history for the Lady Broncos, who dethroned the defending five-time champion Demons.

Jung, who after last year’s conference title game loss to Burlington cried tears of heartbreak on opposing coach Joel Molitor’s shoulder, on Thursday shed tears of joy over a long hug with Sieg, one of his favorite players and students.

“They tricked me,” joked Jung about the Gatorade shower. “I got a little emotional there, it was the first title and the girls have been through a lot. I broke down into tears last year after we lost, and I was crying on Joel’s shoulder, and then this year I’m crying on Daphne’s shoulder, and they got me pretty good. Daphne was the first player to grab me, she’s such a good kid, I had her in calculus all year. It was just an emotional moment.”

“Burlington’s been the class of the conference for a long time, and they’re still an excellent team. They’re just really hard to break down. I think it’s just persistence. The girls were just bound and determined to win this game, there was nothing that was going to stop them. Front to back, our forwards were fantastic, we were really good in midfield and my back line has been a rock for us all year. And Mia came up with a few huge saves.”

Jung took a huge sigh to soak in the moment. He took over the program in 2011 when the Broncos were Southern Lakes Conference bottom-dwellers, and now the Broncos are a force. And with leading scorer Alexa Panyk a junior and goalie Mia Guyton a sophomore, along with an overall young core, this could be the beginning.

“It’s just a huge sigh, man,” Jung said after a deep, smiling exhale. “Unbelievable. It’s really special. We kind of started from the bottom. And where we are now, it’s hard to even retract the last seven years. We were teetering around fifth and sixth each year at first, but we were never really competitive with the top teams. Every year, slowly, we’ve been making progress. Every year, they believed more, and now here we are.”

Panyk, the Grove’s leader in goals and assists, scored the game’s only goal in the 54th minute on a defensive breakdown. She stole the ball off a defender’s foot and went in alone with a nifty move, faking out goalie Cora Anderson for the score.

“I went for a fast break, and the goalie stopped four or five shots before that, so I was kind of worried,” Panyk said after the match. “Before the half, Jung showed me a move to use, and it worked. It was a fake shot to get the goalie to lean, then you take the shot.”

“She’s phenomenal and just so dangerous,” Jung said of Panyk. “She’s going to end up tied with the girl from Waterford for the league lead in goals. She’s so smart, and she runs like a deer. She’s incredible.”

 

Daphne Sieg (far left) sticks with Burlington’s Sam Naber, who is tripped up by Union Grove goalie Mia Guyton Thursday. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Burlington fights back

Down 1-0, the Demons turned up the intensity, but struggled to get more scoring opportunities.

However, in the 81st minute, Morgan McCourt’s corner kick floated perfectly in front of the net, where a teammate attempted a header that looked like it could tie the game. Guyton leaped and caught the ball over her head for the save.

Later, with three minutes remaining, Panyk was carded and had to leave the game briefly, and Burlington’s Amelia Crabtree sent a free kick from about 50 yards out that ricocheted off cluster of players before bouncing into Guyton’s arms.

Burlington played like proud champions in final minutes, but the Broncos’ strong back line kept the Demons off the scoreboard.

Offensively, in the 86th minute, Panyk survived an Anderson slide tackle before shooting toward an open net. Out of nowhere, Burlington’s Cassidy Askin lunged with one foot to save the ball inches in front of the open goal. Two minutes earlier, Panyk corkscrewed past a defender and fired from 10 yards out, but Anderson dove to her left for the save.

Molitor struggled to find the right words moments after the match.

“You can probably guess,” said Molitor when asked to sum up his emotions. “Credit to them, it’s a phenomenal team. He’s got talent every single year. Sean’s a really good coach, you can see how organized they are. Every phase of the game, offensively, defensively, transitions. Their keeper made some really nice saves tonight.”

“I don’t think I could ask them to play any better than they did. That’s all you can ask. It doesn’t get any tighter than 1-0 with that many chances. They had a couple chances, and they finished one of them. We had a couple chances, and we couldn’t put it in the back of the net.”

A few weeks back, the Grove beat Burlington, 3-1, in Burlington, but the Demons had a few key players back from injury this time in a much more even contest.

“It doesn’t feel great,” Molitor said about relinquishing the conference crown. “I think in the back of your mind, you know you can’t win conference every single year, but I didn’t think it was going to be this year.”

Anderson finished with 16 saves.

Guyton tallied seven saves.

Union Grove still hasn’t lost and improved to 8-0-3 on the season. Guyton, who Jung said is the best athlete on the team, has only allowed eight goals all season.

Burlington dropped to 8-4-1.

The Broncos earned a No. 5 seed in the WIAA Division 2 playoffs, which open Thursday, May 31 at home against No. 12 Waukesha North.

Burlington also earned a No. 5 seed and will host No. 12 Westosha Central May 31.

While Panyk said the goal is state for the Broncos, whom she calls a family, Guyton thinks defense can take them far.

“My back line, with Daphne, Carlista, Izzy, Abby, Nixie, all of them are just so strong, mentally and physically,” Guyton said. “They are the key to everything.”

Molitor said he feels confident going into the playoffs, as the Demons are returning to full strength.

For Jung, he believes the Grove is better than its No. 5 seed and will continue to prove it in the postseason.

“We’re not getting a lot of respect from the Woodland Conference, we’re not state-ranked, but I think we’re going to shock some people,” Jung said. “I don’t think they know how good we are. Our one loss was to Wauwatosa East, and they’re top-5 in the state, defending runner-up last year.”

 

 

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