MINOCQUA, Wisc. (WJFW)- Last season, Lakeland Union’s girls soccer team won the Great Northern Conference and made it all the way to the state tournament after posting an impressive 16-3-2 overall record and a 9-1 conference record. However, they lost eight seniors to graduation, and had to overcome the adversity of a rebuild year this year.
This season, they were able to turn a “rebuild” season into a repeat season, going 14-1 overall and becoming undefeated Great Northern Conference champions after finishing the regular season with a 10-0 conference record. Now, the T-Birds are looking to capitalize off of their “rebuild” season and make it to state once again.
Back in March, some of the seniors were cautious on this season and how they would compete. Losing eight seniors is a lot to have to overcome. For reference, there are 11 positions on a soccer field, so losing eight players is a lot for a coach to have to replace. Senior defender Callie Ullius was one of those cautious seniors, saying before the season that she wasn’t sure how her team’s success would play out this year, but was certain that they would try their best.
“I think that this year is a rebuild year, losing eight seniors,” said Ullius. “But, I know that all the girls have put in really hard work this year. I think they’ll step up. Overall, if everybody puts in a positive attitude and works hard as a team, I think we’ll be just fine.”
Most team’s “rebuild” year consists of bad records, embarrassing losses and patient fanbases. However, Lakeland Union was able to turn a rebuild year and finish with a better record than their previous season. After the pressure of the upcoming season made Ullius cautious, she was happy to help lead her team to exceed even her own expectations.
“It feels great, if I’m being honest,” said Ullius. “It feels really good to have that record. I never expected us to win conference this year, and I hate to say it. But, we really pulled through and I think that’s something that’s really special.”
Special is definitely one word to describe Lakeland Union’s regular season. The T-Birds posted 11 shutout wins, and only gave up one goal in conference play. According to senior midfielder Maria Gironella, they didn’t get the start they were hoping for, giving up six goals in their first three games, including a 5-1 loss in Ashland. However, she’s happy that her team was able to bounce back from that slow start and finish strong.
“It took us a bit longer this year to figure it out and get our feet under us,” said Gironella. “But, by then end of the year, we have pulled it together, and it’s amazing what we’ve accomplished.”
This team is no stranger to accomplishments. After making it to the state tournament last season, everyone wanted to know how they would respond with losing the majority of their starting lineup. Well, one way to respond and silence the critics is to outscore your opponents 40-8 on the season and end the year on a 12-game winning streak. However, after exceeding low expectations and the playoffs approaching, just how good is this T-Bird team?
“I think we’re quite good,” said Gironella. “Obviously, we just take it one game at a time. Working together, every game is a challenge, but we’re ready to face it and we’re looking forward to playoffs.”
Whether Lakeland Union gets upset in the first round of the playoffs or goes on to win a state championship, Gironella says that this is a successful season, because they were able to exceed everyone’s expectations and win their conference.
“Definitely, this has been a successful year, going 14-1,” said Gironella. “Obviously, we’d like to do well in the playoffs. But, at the end of the day, we had a good year.”
Lakeland Union’s opening match of the playoffs will be on Thursday, June 1st, when they host Great northern Conference opponent Mosinee.