Morgan LaPlant (Madison La Follette) enjoys facing Indiana United in Women's Premier Soccer League season openers.
The UW-Milwaukee forward scored twice to lead the Madison 56ers to a 3-1 victory Friday afternoon at Breese Stevens Field, the second straight year LaPlant has bagged a brace against the Indiana club to start the season.
UW-Green Bay's Hannah Kernen (Belleville/Sugar River) scored the first goal for the 56ers, who were in control throughout their Midwest Division opener despite not yet having their full team together for a training session.
"This is, I think, the earliest we've played in the WPSL and training has been kind of sparse," said Madison coach John Reddan, whose team opened league play June 5, June 15 and June 16 in its first three seasons in the league. "But they understand soccer. So it went pretty well."
LaPlant's college teammate, Sara Stern (McFarland) started the sequence that led to Kernen's opener about a half hour into the match, winning a tackle at midfield. The ball popped out to Marquette's Taylor Madigan (Waunakee), who played a ball into the 6-yard box that Kernen, cutting in from the left, poked past the United goalkeeper.
The lead doubled before halftime, thanks to LaPlant's aggressiveness. Indiana's outside back spent too much time on the ball, and LaPlant took it away, went in and scored. "The second one was all Morgan," Reddan said.
The halftime break halted some of the 56ers' momentum, but the home team eventually got going again.
"We didn't start the second half as strong as we would have liked from a coaching perspective," Reddan said. "But we started to get things together, started moving the ball much better."
That led to the third goal, which capped an impressive passing sequence that included UW-Green Bay keeper Katy Pilarzyk (Madison Memorial), right back Sarah Schmelzer and several others. The ball ended up at the feet of University of Wisconsin midfielder Lindsey Holmes (Verona), and played LaPlant in behind the Indiana backline.
"It would have been nice to get a couple more," Reddan said, "but that goal was nice."
The visitors managed to avoid being shut out in their opener, but Reddan had plenty of praise for the 56ers' backline – most notably veterans Mara Wyttenbach and Schmelzer, who both are soccer-playing moms.
"Mara just shows you how it's done, staying fit and staying healthy," Reddan said of Wyttenbach, who played for UW when he was an assistant for the Badgers in the 1990s. "She was a standard in the back, she did really well. It's nice to see that.
"I think it's good for the younger players to see: Look, these are people who are dedicated to being soccer players and being fit. It's kind of neat because we kind of have that range of experience."
Two newcomers made their debut with the 56ers: Liberty defender Geena Swentik (Kettle Moraine) and midfielder Chrissy Papageorge, who played at William & Mary in 2004 and '05 and is now a general surgery resident at UW Hospital and Clinics. Reddan said Colorado College defender Shaina Riciputi, a native of Los Alamos, N.M., likely will play Sunday. Riciputi is working on research at UW this summer.
The 56ers continue their opening weekend Sunday as they'll be the guests for the Quad City Eagles' opener Sunday in Riverdale, Iowa. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Madison won both meetings between the sides in 2012 as it started 3-0-0 before losing its final two matches of the season against FC Milwaukee. The Nationals, who won the Midwest title two of their three seasons, don't have a WPSL team this season.
"Obviously, they brought extremely high quality to the picture. So it's disappointing in that regard," said Reddan, whose team lost all six of its matches against FC Milwaukee in league play.
"But at the same time, it is what it is and you deal with who's in the league. It would be nice to have them, and it's a little strange not having that home and away in-state. But I guess that was their choice."
MADISON 56ERS: Katy Pilarzyk; Ashley Burkhardt, Mara Wyttenbach, Jenna Harrington, Sarah Schmelzer; Taylor Madigan, Alex Melin, Sara Stern; Hannah Kernen, Sara Spaulding, Morgan LaPlant. Substitutes (open): Lindsey Holmes, Molly Laufenberg, Marta Wangard, Geena Swentik, Chrissy Papageorge.