Baraboo gave Mount Horeb all it could handle on Tuesday, but the Thunderbirds ultimately couldn’t prevent Vikings from winning an eighth straight Badger North Conference championship.
Baraboo overcome a pair of one-goal deficits, but the Vikings struck last, as Jaden Neumann scored the game-winning goal on a penalty kick in the 75th minute to give Mount Horeb a 3-2 win.
“I thought our guys played pretty resilient,” Baraboo coach Nathanael Bresson said. “Coming back from one down against a team like Mount Horeb is a difficult thing to do, so to bring it back and level it off at 1-1 and then to keep our composure when we went down 2-1 and to get it back to 2-2.
“The guys kept fighting and I’m really proud of them for that. In previous years, we probably would have folded, but these guys showed a lot of resilience, a lot of grit, a lot of heart to keep fighting. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but I’m proud of the guys.”
With the win, Mount Horeb (10-4-1, 6-0 Badger North), ranked third in Division 3 by the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association, eliminated Baraboo (10-2-2, 3-1-2) from conference title contention with one Badger North game to play. The T-Birds were looking for their first conference title since they shared the championship with Mount Horeb and Waunakee in 2010.
It was a tough pill to swallow for a large senior class that went out with a fight in their final regular-season home game.
“The majority of those guys have been with me for the last three years,” Bresson said. “It definitely breeds familiarity and they know what I expect and what we’re trying to accomplish. Their hard work over the last few years paid off and put us in a position to be competitive within the conference. It’s a credit to those guys as seniors.”
Tuesday’s game didn’t start well for Baraboo, as Neumann scored a one-touch goal just 3:25 into the game to stake Mount Horeb to a 1-0 lead.
The T-Birds quickly settled in and created the bulk of the scoring chances the rest of the first half. Baraboo won five first-half corner kicks and put a number of shots over the crossbar, but the teams each finished the half with two shots on goal as Mount Horeb took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
Baraboo kept creating chances in the second half and it paid off early. A poor Mount Horeb clearance struck Baraboo senior Jacob Lawrence, who found a way to get the ball to senior forward Noah Kappel in the middle of the penalty box. Kappel’s shot was saved, but he followed his shot and pounded at the ball along with Mount Horeb goalkeeper Ben Leis and a couple of defenders.
The ball appeared to cross the goal line, but Leis pulled it back over into the field of play. Play was set to resume before the referee conferred with the lineman and gave Baraboo the goal to tie the score at 1 at the 54:58 mark.
“Noah gives us a lot of opportunities to score,” Bresson said of Kappel. “He’s constantly in the mix, he’s good with the ball on his feet and he hits the ball well. He’s been scoring a lot of goals for us this season, so he’ll be missed next year. He created a lot of opportunities for us today.”
Mount Horeb regained the lead when Kyler Donovan ran onto a ball and put it past Baraboo goalie Erik Eilertson to give the Vikings a 2-1 lead at the 69:03 mark.
Baraboo fought back once again, as Jacob Lawrence was taken down in the box to give Kappel a penalty kick opportunity. Kappel buried it in the lower left corner for his second goal of the night, tying the score at 2 at the 73:16 mark.
That’s when Neumann struck again, getting behind the T-Birds’ back line and forcing the Baraboo defenders to take him down from behind. Neumann drove the penalty kick past a leftward-diving Eilertson to give the Vikings their seventh straight win over the T-Birds. It was Baraboo’s first loss in regulation since the second game of the season, a 3-1 home defeat to Madison East on Aug. 24.
The T-Birds were the first Badger North team to test the Vikings this season, as Mount Horeb had outscored its Badger North opponents 22-1 entering Tuesday night.
“They’re extremely organized, they’re extremely well coached, they have a game plan and they stick to it, and their players are highly skilled,” Bresson said of Mount Horeb. “We had opportunities to score; we had opportunities to get ahead in the game — unfortunately the execution wasn’t quite on.”
Baraboo will close the regular season with three straight road games, beginning with a non-conference matchup at Madison La Follette on Thursday. The Badger North season will wrap up with a trip to Sauk Prairie on Tuesday. A win over Sauk Prairie would give the T-Birds, who went 1-4-0 in conference play last year and haven’t finished in the top three in the conference since going 2-2-1 to take third in 2013, a second-place finish in the final Badger North standings.
“Every game at this point is fighting for seeding in sectionals,” Bresson said. “If we finish the season well, that’ll give us a good opportunity to seed well going into the postseason.”
MOUNT HOREB 3, BARABOO 2
Mount Horeb 1 2 — 3
Baraboo 0 2 — 2
First half: MH — Neumann, 3:25.
Second half: B — Kappel, 54:58. MH — Donovan, 69:03. B — Kappel (PK), 73:16. MH — Neumann (PK), 74:35.
Saves: Leis 2; B (Eilertson) 2