By Greg Bates
ACN & Times-Press sports correspondent
The Seymour girls soccer team went into its WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal game with just one loss in its previous 10 games.
Riding a hot streak, the Thunder had to face top-seeded Plymouth.
No. 4-seeded Seymour had to play catch-up the entire evening and fell 3-2 on the road on Thursday, June 8, ending a memorable season.
“It’s definitely tough to get behind right away, which getting behind is never very good, but I think we did a great job in focusing on the next goal,” Seymour senior center back McKendra Heinke said. “And I think we worked well as a team in order to get those two goals and get us closer to the win.”
Seymour coach Todd Messner was extremely happy with his players’ effort against a solid team.
“They sold out and gave it everything they had, and it’s those moments that they end up remembering most in life and learn from, too,” Messner said. “It was a very proud moment for them to finish as strong as they did.”
Plymouth, which is ranked No. 6 in Division 3 in the latest Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association State Poll, got the first shot on goal of the game to put the pressure on the Seymour defense.
“I would say we were a little nervous to start off,” Messner said. “We had to work ourselves into the game.”
After attempting a shot and the ball came back out of the box, Plymouth’s Sydney Robinson registered a goal past Seymour goalkeeper Sophie Skenandore at 14:25 of the first half.
Seymour (11-6-4) missed out on a couple chances to score early in the second half.
Following a Seymour penalty, Plymouth (18-2-2) got a free kick that turned into a goal at 51:13.
Down 2-0, the Seymour players never wavered.
“Even after that our girls believed, ‘Hey, we can get this,’” Messner said. “They kept fighting.”
Seymour’s Kyla Ryan got the ball and dribbled by two defenders just inside the box and beat the Plymouth goalie on the left side at the 52:56 mark.
The sudden momentum swing in Seymour’s favor didn’t last long.
Robinson had a breakaway opportunity for Plymouth and tallied her second goal of the contest, this time at 53:30, just 34 seconds after the Ryan tally.
“Right after that we were moving the ball nicely,” Messner said. “For the next 20 minutes we seemed to be on the attack quite a bit.”
Ryan made it a 3-2 at 59:49 when she beat a defender and netted a goal.
With just over 30 minutes remaining the game, there was plenty of time for Seymour to work its magic. However, the Thunder couldn’t get the equalizer.
Seymour finished with nine shots on goal and six corner kicks. Plymouth had 11 shots and two corners.
“I look back on a couple of our corners at the end, and really if we could have placed it in better we would have had chances,” Messner said. “It’s one of those things where we had the sense that we had the momentum going and they were on their heels. That’s when things can go your way in front of the goal. But we didn’t quite serve in the balls we needed to.”
After making it to the state tournament last season, Seymour entered this year with huge expectations. The team had lost only three seniors, so there was plenty of experience back. However, during basketball season, Aubrey Buchholtz tore her ACL and was going to miss the entire soccer season. The Thunder needed a new goalie. In the first game of the year, one of its top players, Elli Ellis, also tore her ACL.
“It definitely got everybody down right away at the start of the season, but I think we worked well as a team, and we came together and helped each other to stay positive and get through hard times,” Heinke said.
Seymour had just two wins and three ties in its first eight games of the season. But gradually, the girls started to believe and mold as a unit.
“We had our ups and downs, but I told them I was really proud how they came together and found a way to come together,” Messner said. “I went from believing we could make it back to state, but then we have those injuries, and boy, it sure seemed like it would be really tough. For us to get the regional championship, that was a good result.”
Said Heinke, “I know our season started off a little rough, but as we progressed we all learned each other’s styles and learned to work together better. We came out and we won against West De Pere, which is one of our rivals, so we can count that as a big success. And, we even made it past regionals. I think we made it further than some people thought we would.”
The Seymour program has to say goodbye to eight seniors, including Heinke and Skenandore. It’s a group that over its four years won a regional title every year and gave the program its first sectional title and state appearance. The seniors have meant so much to the Thunder program over the years they’re going to be hard to replace.
“That’s a hard moment at the end of year today,” Messner said. “When the game ends you can see clearly the effort those girls were giving. The emotional comes out and you can definitely see what it means. I think it’s a really important moment for the underclassmen to take in and realize how important those moments are for them and to get everything out of these years that they can.”
Finishing as the top class all-time for Seymour soccer – at least based on its team accomplishments – the seniors hope to leave a lasting legacy.
“I think that us setting those standards saying, ‘Alright, we can do this,’ is a good thing,” Heinke said. “We’re getting a name again for Seymour soccer.”
By Greg Bates