Amherst-Iola-Rosholt soccer advances to Sectionals
By Olivia Lehman
Special to The Gazette
The second-seeded Amherst/Iola-Scandinavia/Rosholt (AIR) boys soccer team earned its first trip to Sectionals with a 2-0 win over third-seeded New London in a WIAA Division 3 Regional Final at the Portage County Youth Soccer Complex in Stevens Point Saturday, Oct. 21.
The Thunder Falcons are set to play at top-seeded Rhinelander in a Sectional Semifinals at 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, with the winner to play top-seeded and sixth-ranked Amery or third-seeded Rice Lake in a WIAA Division 3 Sectional Final at Rice Lake at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28.
The fourth-year varsity program had one playoff win before this season, and carries a 19-1-2 record into Sectionals.
“Our work ethic has gotten a lot more positive, everyone is trying harder, and we’ve learned how to even each other out with the right players in the right places,” said senior offensive striker Luke Wright.
“We have a lot of people that work in the offseason and play summer league,” said junior center midfielder Jackson Glisczinski. “And we really do have a strong core of good leaders.”
“Most of us have been friends for a while and have played together before and understand how each other work,” and junior defensive sweeper Isaac Winkelman.
AIR lost to Lakeland Union in its first two playoff appearances in 2014 and 2015, and then recorded a 3-1 over ninth-seeded Antigo in Regional Quarterfinals last season for its first playoff victory, before the Thunder Falcons lost 9-0 to top-seeded Waupaca to end their season in the Regional Semifinals.
Wright, Glisczinski and Winkelman are captains for the team this season, along with senior goalkeeper Devin Toth.
“I chose Luke and Devin right away,” said AIR head coach Erik Linde. “But after a couple practices I saw the kind of good leadership Jackson and Isaac were showing, so I had to add them.”
“Our captains and leadership group are such good role models and set a great example for the underclassmen for becoming great players,” said Toth.
Offensively, AIR enters Sectionals averaging 5.2 goals per game this season, and their success has been attributed to a total team effort.
“It’s awesome to have so many threats on the field so that if you mess up there’s someone there to not mess up,” said Wright. “Jackson has always tried to strived to be a good leader and puts forth the effort and time, he’s one of those guys who’s always there when you need him both on and off the field. The competitive leagues really shaped him to be an amazing player.
“And Isaac’s [Winkelman] not afraid to tell people what to do and when to do it,” he said. “He knows when enough is enough, but makes sure there’s a positive vibe amongst the team and does a really good job at reading the field and the people on it.”
Through mid-October, junior offensive striker Carson Sneller had been ranked in the Top 10 in the state for points, as he racked up 40 goals and 13 assists through 14 games.
“It’s the passes that make the play,” said Sneller. “We play well together, we play as friends.”
Meanwhile, the defense is allowing 1.4 goals per game this year, and has had six shutouts.
“(Toth’s) an absolute stud,” said Wright. “I’ve had the privilege to play with him through Jensen (Center Youth Soccer League) and all throughout high school. I think he’s improved the greatest out of anyone on the team and is definitely one of the best goalies in the conference.”
“Last year we played a lot more of an individual game, but we’ve learned to complement each other and work together,” said Toth. “We keep possession a lot more, keep the ball more controlled, and the defense has better judgement.”
Over the course of the season, Linde thinks his team has come a long way.
“They’re a lot more confident than they were,” said Linde. “We found success early on in the season, and that really boosted their confidence.
“We started winning and the whole mentality became a lot more positive and supportive,” he said. “I’m probably most proud of the teamwork and overall unselfishness and how the players are all finding their roles on the field.”
“He lets us play,” said Winkelman. “Let’s us call the shots, and he’s really open to opinions and input and gives authority to the team.”
“I love (Linde),” said Sneller. “He encourages us and really pushes us to do our best.”
AIR had a chance to win the Central Wisconsin Conference Title in the regular-season finale, but lost 2-1 to Marshfield Columbus (13-1) Oct. 13 to finish second in the conference at 12-1-1.
The second-seeded Thunder Falcons came back with a 2-1 win over seventh-seeded Waupaca in overtime in a WIAA Division 3 Regional Semifinal Thursday, Oct. 19, and then won 2-0 over New London in the Regional Final Saturday to advance to Sectionals.
AIR will take on Rhinelander Thursday, with the winner to advance to the Sectional Final for a berth at state.
The WIAA Division 3 State Tournament will be held at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee, with the State Semifinals Friday, Nov. 3, and the State Championship Game Saturday, Nov. 4.
“I think we’ll have a good shot at going far with the playoffs,” said Wright before the postseason. “As long as we stay away from injuries and keep a positive attitude.”
“We have a hard road ahead of us…a hard journey,” Sneller said. “But we’ve had tests before, hard tests before. We’ll go far.”