Stoughton led at halftime in a Division 2 regional championship game at top-seeded Elkhorn on Saturday, Oct. 26, but the Elks surged past the Vikings in the second half for a 4-1 victory.
The Vikings (9-7-2) knocked off Milton 2-1 in the regional semifinals on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at McFarland High School.
Stoughton 2, Milton 1
Junior Milot Misini narrowly missed giving the Vikings the lead against the Red Hawks when his header off a cross by classmate Ben Zeitner sailed over the crossbar by a foot in the 55th minute.
A little more than a minute later, Misini took advantage of another opportunity. He corralled a throw-in by junior Jaden Clausen, and beat Milton goalkeeper Maverick Attwood for the game-winning goal.
“I waited for the defender to go up for the header, and he didn’t head it correctly,” Misini said. “That allowed me to dribble past the last two defenders and scored.”
Stoughton defeated Milton by the same score on Sept. 17 at Collins Field.
The regional semifinal was played at McFarland because WIAA rules state that postseason games must be played at a soccer-only facility or on field turf.
Stoughton junior goalkeeper Steven Benoy preserved the victory with three crucial stops down the stretch. He made a diving save to his left on a free kick just outside the box by Milton’s Declan Riley, and denied Riley again five minutes later on another free kick from the same spot.
Benoy stopped another free kick in the 83rd minute for good measure.
“Before every game, I drill it into my head to focus on not messing up,” he said. “I try to make the most tactically-correct plays and try to avoid little errors so they don’t turn into bigger errors.
“That helps me when it comes to the big shots, because then I don’t have to worry about stepping correctly or diving at the right time.”
Stoughton played without its top two strikers – senior Derek Karlen and junior AJ Middlesteadt – in the regular-season finale against Monona Grove, and both players had an impact in the first half Tuesday.
“With a little more rest, I felt like I had more energy,” Karlen said. “It definitely carried over into this game.”
Middlesteadt blasted a shot just over the crossbar a little more than two minutes into the contest, and put a shot on goal a minute later. He left the game with six minutes left due to an apparent back injury, but walked off the pitch under his own power.
Milton (8-11-1) scored in the sixth minute, as Luke Grote lofted a shot from 40 yards out over Benoy and into the back of the net.
The Vikings had a pair of chances to even the score. Attwood made a diving save on a 25-yard free kick by senior Colin Holtan in the 13th minute, and sophomore Marco Cortes-Lima’s left-footed strike was stopped in the 26th minute.
Karlen tied the game in the 35th minute. He took a pass from senior defender Jacob Ferguson, muscled his way past two Milton defenders and beat Attwood.