Ava Stelter was on a different level than her competition all year.
Fittingly, the Lake Mills freshman earned Player of the Year honors for in the Capitol Conference in 2019. Stelter scored 15 times in conference play and had 33 goals for a Lake Mills soccer team that lost in the WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinals.
“I knew I would have a successful season, but obviously I didn’t expect player of the year or anything like that,” Stelter said. “I knew when I came in I wanted to work on three things: leadership, getting better fitness and scoring a lot of goals. I didn’t think I’d get this close with my teammates and I didn’t think we’d have as good of a season as we did.”
The L-Cats went five weeks without suffering a loss before dropping the sectional semifinal to Kettle Moraine Lutheran. Jeff Hegstrom, the Lake Mills head coach, credited Stelter with helping the L-Cats take their game to the next level.
“I’ve been around the game for so long, the way she touches the ball with her feet, it’s rarely ever a mistouch,” Hegstrom said. “We’ve had some very good players come through the program, but the level that she’s at is hard to describe because it’s so rare. Her foot skills, her vision and her connecting with teammates is so impressive.”
Junior midfielder Mia Kroll earned first-team honors and sophomore midfielder Julianna Wagner took second-team honors for Lake Mills.
“She pushed their levels to the max simply because when you’re connecting with Ava Stelter you want to play at a high level with her,” Hegstrom said. “At the beginning of the season, there were some growing pains trying to figure out how to play someone with that caliber. By the end of the season, they were playing with a together mentality. It wasn’t just the talent she brought to the program, but the warmth she brought to the program.”
As the cohesion grew on the offensive end, the defensive line tightened up too. Junior Erin Strauss and freshman Katelyn Kitsembel each earned second-team honors for their work in front of honorable-mention keeper Ashley Buth.
“I think once we realized how good we could be, we really started playing better together,” Stelter said. “Everyone really wanted (to win) a lot more once we realized we really could play great soccer.”
Lakeside Lutheran had two sophomores, forward Mia Murray and midfielder Kendra Wilson, earn honorable-mention honors.
LPS has 6 selections
Luther Prep’s girls soccer team had three players selected to the first team and three named honorable mention in voting held recently.
Senior forward Abbie Burke, junior midfielder Hannah Schroeder and sophomore defender Lily Zimpelmann were named to the first team. The senior trio of Sophie Cloute, Tabitha Vannieuwenhoven and Carly Hirsch were honorable-mention recipients.
Burke made the first team in back-to-back seasons and scored seven conference goals, including two game-winning shots.
“She is almost exclusively our only striker,” Luther Prep girls soccer coach Brent Archer said. “She has made a big improvement this year in showing to the ball and distributing to make our offense more dynamic. She is faster than she looks because of her very tall frame and has an accurate, strong leg.”
Schroeder had four league goals and an assist from the center mid position.
“Hannah is our motor. She is our center mid who is all over the place, all the time,” Archer said. “She has to be told not to play defense sometimes to save her legs. She is our offensive catalyst, being able to handle the ball through traffic, distribute the ball to our forward or wings and start combination passes that lead to goal-scoring chances.
“She is not afraid to be on the back line marking up or on the front line making runs towards goal. She is a complete soccer player with the determination to succeed against any opponent. Hannah’s attitude of constant encouragement leads her to being our emotional leader.”
Zimpelmann earned first team honors for the second time and was named team MVP despite being an underclassmen.
“Lily is our best player and, I believe, one of the best players in the conference,” Archer said. “Lily has outstanding skills and is a great communicator. She has bailed us out on defense many times and leads the possession-style buildup that the program strives for.
“She needed to play center back for us this year because of a huge lack of experience that we had as a team on defense, but Lily could play any position with success. She took every free kick and corner kick for us and almost always put the ball into a dangerous place, no matter where the kick was taken.”
Hirsch had 49 conference saves with a 1.1 goals against average and started every game of her 4-year letter winning career.
“Carly was not always the most technically sound goalkeeper but had a knack for making saves when it really counted,” Archer said. “Carly stepped up this year to take all of our goal kicks to save Lily’s leg. She has an above average leg for punting distance and accuracy. She had great games against Columbus (6-save shutout in lousy weather), Lodi (a spectacular save in the closing minutes to keep the game in our favor) and Sugar River (10 saves, 1 goal allowed).”
Cloute, a captain, helped anchor the team’s defense and won the Phoenix Award for being an excellent role model.
“She played center back next to Lily this year,” Archer said. “Where Lily was flashy and loved to juke and move, Sophie was the rock, who played solid defense and is the strength next to Lily’s skill. Sophie was never a back line defender until this year and developed into a very good one. She is very smart and learned quickly.”
Tabitha Vannieuwenhoven was also a captain in her first year on defense after being moved from forward.
“Tabitha has a great soccer story,” Archer said. “She began as a freshman who had only played small school soccer before coming to LPS. She had such an offseason improvement plan over the last few years that she became one of our (physically) strongest players, even though she looks like a tiny blond girl. The team noticed, and voted her to be our captain this year.
“She was used almost exclusively as a wing and forward for the first three years, but was converted (on the fly during our Lake Mills game) to a defender. As an athletic outside defensive back with offensive experience, she became a great threat for overlap and combination runs to support the offense. Although she had no goals or assists this year, her play led to several goal-scoring plays.”
Sugar River won the Capitol with a record of 7-0-0 followed by Lake Mills at 4-1-2, Luther Prep at 4-2-1, Wisconsin Heights/Barneveld at 3-1-3, Lodi at 2-2-3, Columbus at 2-4-1, Cambridge/Deerfield 1-6-0 and Lakeside Lutheran at 0-7-0.
2019 ALL-CONFERENCE GIRLS SOCCER
Player of the Year — Ava Stelter, Lake Mills freshman forward
Stelter, LM, fr., F; Burke, WLP, sr., F; Gilles, Lod, sr., MF; Krantz, B/NG, MF; Kroll, LM, jr., MF; Gentilli, B/NG, jr., MF; Schroeder, WLP, jr., MF; McNamer, B/NG, sr., D; Watrud, B/NG, jr., D; Zimpelmann, WLP, soph., D; Krutchen, Lod, sr., D; Mitchell, WH/B, soph., D; Fong, B/NG, sr., D; Heittola, B/NG, sr., K.
Adler, WH/B, jr., F; Rosga, Lod, soph., F; Wagner, LM, soph., MF; King, WH/B, soph., MF; Maerz, Lod, jr., MF; Olson, Col., soph., MF; Hering, WH/B, jr., MF; Strauss, LM, jr., D; Kitsembel, LM, fr., D; Anson, B/NG, soph., D; Menomin, Col., sr., K
Murray, LL, soph., F; Schmidt, Lod, fr., F; Handel, WH/B, jr., F; Wilson, LL, soph., MF; Cloute, WLP, sr., D; Diaz, Col., fr., D; Vannieuwenhoven, WLP, sr., D; Bonilla, WH/B, jr., D; Buth, LM, sr., K; Hirsch, WLP, sr., K.