It was an emotional scene for the Burlington girls soccer team, which capped its season with a third straight sectional appearance June 7 in Waunakee. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk

The Burlington soccer girls weren’t happy with their No. 5 seed in this year’s playoffs.

And they certainly played with a chip on their shoulder June 7 in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal at top-seeded Waunakee.

Buoyed by the return of freshman midfielder Sam Naber, who left the regional final victory with a severe cut on her head, the Demons were up to the challenge against the state-ranked Warriors.

It took a late goal from Waunakee to hold off pesky Burlington for the 3-2 victory, but Demon head coach Joel Molitor said after the game his team played its best soccer of the season.

“When they’re tight like that and you play well, you tip your hat to them,” Molitor said. “They had so much speed up top, we just couldn’t deal with them.”

The teams played to a 0-0 tie at the half before Jessa Burling was moved up to a more offensive position in the second half and took advantage.

She scored a goal in the 46th minute to make it 1-0, but Waunakee answered immediately in the 47th to tie it.

Then, Burling made it 2-1 with a long, highlight-reel goal in the 53rd, but Maddie Farnsworth came back with her second goal in the 55th to tie it again, at 2-2.

The teams battled back and forth before the Warriors got the game-winner in the 75th.

A curving, low line drive from 20 yards out was stopped by a diving Cora Anderson, who finished with 11 saves.

However, the amazing save was negated because the ball ricocheted right to a Waunakee player, who found the back of the net while Anderson tried to recover.

The unfortunate bounce forced Burlington into scramble mode late, and one final opportunity arose.

In the final minute, a great pass from Victoria Van Dan crossed midfield to Naber, who outmuscled her defender and advanced it to Morgan McCourt, who faced a tenacious double team.

The defense expected a shot, but McCourt found an open Naber in the middle, but her shot from roughly 15 yards out sailed just inches above the goal.

The final 15 seconds ticked off to end the game.

The Demons (10-5-2) peaked at the right time in the playoffs after a rough start to the season.

Molitor said the seniors were the ones that stepped up the leadership and helped the underclassmen adapt to varsity.

Burlington will say goodbye to seniors Burling, McCourt, Adrianna Castillo, Caitlyn Kelsey and Megan Oliver.

“The thing I’m most proud of with this program is the fact that when kids graduate, they want to come back and be around us again,” Molitor said.

After the game, the seniors were emotional.

“As a 5 seed, playing the 1 seed, we knew we were going to give it our all, and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone,” McCourt said. “This is the best we’ve played all season. You don’t see half of a team come up from junior varsity during the season and make it all the way to sectionals.”

Oliver said bonding with the new players was key to the season, and she felt like a “mother figure.”

“There were girls who were playing for 45 straight minutes, and it was all effort the entire time,” Burling said of the grueling Waunakee match.

Castillo said confidence was low early in the season, with so many girls new to varsity.

“It’s just so awesome to see how far this team has come,” she said.

McCourt said the bond went beyond the soccer field.

“Through everything, through things outside of school, with families, there’s no place like Burlington, and it’s a place I’ll never forget, and I’ll always come back to it,” she said.

For Kelsey, who broke her femur her freshman year, playing on varsity for the first time her senior year was special.

“It was amazing to be the underdogs and prove people wrong and actually win sometimes,” she said. “Waunakee expected to be kicking our butts, and we definitely held them off. My team is amazing.”