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Errors, struggles plagued championship, not year
Niffenegger makes a running grab in the first inning of Saturdays state championship loss to Luxemburg-Casco.
Every season has its storylines. Monroe's run to the state championship was no different.

Both a coach and his catcher feared the worst for their father's lives, but each in entirely different ways. Head coach Dale Buvid's father suffered a stroke the weekend of the sectional final. Junior backstop Paisley Bennett wears her father's National Guard dog tags everywhere outside of the diamond, keeping whatever she can of her father's close to her heart until he returns from serving in Iraq.

Senior starting pitcher Meghan Roberts overcame being born prematurely and a long stint on the junior varsity in 2008 while sitting third on last year's state runner-up depth chart to be the ace of the staff in 2009.

All of the parallel's came full circle this season, as the players and coaches rallied around each other to make its unforeseen race to state.

"We had such great chemistry all year. We all kept each other up," Roberts said.

Just as Monroe's season looked to have a happy storybook ending, their final opponent, Luxemburg-Casco had a similar story. Both teams had their ups and downs before going on postseason runs. Monroe lost three in a row in early May, dropping their overall record to 10-9. The Cheesemakers rallied to win their final four games of the regular season, winning the conference. The Spartans lost their final three games of the regular season, heading into the playoffs 11-12 and in fourth place in the Bay Conference.

As the championship approached, both teams were playing fantastic softball. Monroe was getting timely hitting with gold-glove defense. In the semifinal, the Cheesemakers overcame three strikeouts by senior shortstop Emily Rufenacht to beat Port Washington thanks to its stunning 'D'. Rufenacht had only three strikeouts all season before Friday's semifinal - in 93 total at bats.

In the first inning, during Saturday's championship, Rufenacht K'd again.

Luxemburg-Casco rallied behind pitcher Danielle Deterville in the semifinal win over Altoona, as she struck out 14 Railroaders.

How Saturday's game unfolded could be nothing short of being called a "freak" game. Monroe's eight team errors fell just two errors shy of the Division 2 state record, set 24 years ago.

Personally, I disagreed with one of the errors. In the sixth inning, an error was charged when Roberts flipped the ball home to Bennett on a suicide squeeze. As Bennett tried to maintain control, the base runner slid into her glove and the ball came loose.

Fielder's choice? Yes. Great slide? Yes. Error? No.

However the game unfolded, and a snowball effect was going on throughout the game. As balls were dropped in the infield, exchanges could not be made from glove to throwing hand on grounders, and when the exchange was made, the throw went wild - just as Robert's throw in the fourth inning. Wild pitches, weird hops and a deer-in-the-headlights look came over nearly everyone dressed in red and white.

"It was really bad, I just had to hold back the tears," second baseman Brandi Trewartha said. She dropped a fly in the third after colliding with right fielder Kelsey Erickson.

"It sucks right now," Maggie Schuttler said after the game. Schuttler dropped the first ball of her career in center field in the third as well, but the run failed to score. "After I dropped it I was really mad. That hasn't happened to me. It seemed like there was nobody we could rely on to bring us back and make a play."

With the defensive miscues came the offensive woes. Only a Schuttler single in the fourth inning stood as a hit for Monroe until the seventh. Deterville struck out five batters in the game, all of which with a high heat rise ball with two strikes.

Nothing could go right for the Cheesemakers. Yet, when Rufenacht singled in her last high school at bat to lead off the seventh, a sense of momentum filled the air around Goodman Diamond. Trewartha, single, Erickson, RBI double. All of a sudden, Monroe was back in business with the tying run at the plate with no outs. Two straight strikeouts and a groundout by Gwen Sutter ended Monroe's season.

Maybe two more innings of play could have changed the outcome. Regardless, having eight errors is something everyone will remember. Coach Buvid said that it is almost better that his team lost the way they did, rather than by one run or after a close play.

"In some ways, it is easier to do it this way rather than a one-run game. We didn't give ourselves a chance," Buvid said.

I couldn't agree more.

No one player, one umpire, one hop, skip or jump changed the game. It was the rare June blizzard in Wisconsin. The blizzard that sees avalanches topple the infield with snowball-sized flakes. The frustrations surrounding the game will linger with some for a few days before they come back to reality and realize just how special the dream season was.

"Right now its obviously going to hurt. But in a couple of weeks I might look back and see it differently," Rufenacht said.

It will take some a week or two to get over the loss, and it may take even longer for others. What these young ladies will realize down the road is they banded together for the entire season. They worked hard, they turned heads, and they accomplished something that no one outside of their own team imagined possible.

"We believed in no fear, that's what (Coach) Buvid taught us to believe in," Roberts said.

Bennett said her dad told her on the phone after the game that he was proud of her. As a senior leader next year, she now understands more clearly the key to making it back.

"Team chemistry and getting along. We need to make sure we keep each other up," Bennett said.

Second place is only slightly shadowed by the light cloud alone in the sky. What this Cheesemakers team did was grow as athletes, grow as friends, and grow as people.

They will have learned more about life and the pursuit of a dream from playing softball this season than any class in school ever could.

As the girls started crying, the fans started clapping. Not even a half hour after the game, smiles were starting to emerge. These young ladies have a sense of defeat, as well as accomplishment. No lesson in life may ever be as valuable, not even if had they won it all.

Congratulations Monroe.

Despite the extra time that we at the sports office had to work throughout this trip, watching the season unfold the way it did was special. Never making it to state as an athlete allows me to appreciate everything this team accomplished even more.

-Adam Krebs is the Monroe Times sports editor and can be reached at sportseditor@