James Krause La Crosse Tribune
ANALASKA – On the surface, the Onalaska High School girls’ soccer team may have looked out of sight as it entered its game Tuesday against Holmen with a five-game winning streak without a win.
But a quick dig into the Hilltoppers 5-7-1 start showed many high-profile opponents from across the state. Of their non-conference opponents, four have at least eight wins and two — River Falls and McConne Homestead — are ranked by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.
That level of competition coach Tyler Ludeking was credited with his side’s ability to perform when it mattered on Tuesday, beating the Vikings 1-0 with a second-half goal by young striker Ava Bredenbach.
The next test comes almost immediately. Onalaska (6-7-1, 4-1-1) plays a midfield game (11-0-1, 5-0-1) at Fields for Kids on Thursday at 7 p.m. for the top spot.
“We had one of the toughest no-conference schedules we’ve ever had,” Ludeking said. “We have played four or five different ranked teams this year. Having these experiences so early in the year has really prepared us for the kind of success we had in team play.”
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The Hilltoppers won despite adversity as Ludeking was shown a red card just before the break, forcing assistant coach Kelly Gilman and junior coach Daniel Landsom to work.
The team’s expulsion, as well as the added sentiment on the big night, made the win particularly important for top striker Kia Bronston.
“I am very proud of our team because they were able to finish the match,” said Bronston. “Earlier in the year we didn’t play as well as we could. This year we were playing stronger teams and I think that made us a lot better as a team.”
Bronston’s contribution to the team exceeds seven goals in team play, including a hat-trick against Sparta and Logan. Ludeking said she brings the passion and drive that helped make a team that only includes three other seniors.
“Kia has a lot of heart,” Ludeking said. “She is a pioneer on and off the field. She has been an important part of this team for the past few years.”
The challenge that awaits at RiverHawks will require several critical contributions. The only flaw in Central’s record this season was the 1-1 draw against Holmen on April 26.
“We try to play one game at a time to see how we can beat these different opponents,” Ludeking said. “Central is going to be a big opponent. They have won many close matches this year, and we are looking forward to playing them.”
With momentum on their side, the Hilltoppers could end the RiverHawks’ tight-knit conference schedule on points with a win. With so much at stake, Bronston said compatibility with Central has been on the mind for a while.
“Central is definitely going to be a tough competition,” said Bronston. “We’ve been thinking about it a lot, trying to figure out what formation we’re going to try. It should be fun.”
James Krause can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @jkrausepro