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Monroe exceeds expectations
MONROE - The Monroe girls basketball team exceeded expectations this year and the arrow is pointing up.

Monroe finished the season 21-4 with a Badger South Conference co-championship with Madison Edgewood and a state tournament run for the first time since 2010. Monroe finished the season 4-4 against teams ranked in the top 10 in the state when the Cheesemakers played them. Of the Cheesemakers' four losses, two came to Division 2 state champion Beaver Dam and one came to Division 3 state champion Edgewood.

"I don't think anyone at the beginning of the year had us picked making it to the state tournament," Monroe coach Sam Mathiason said. "I'm proud this group of girls got this opportunity. You never know when you are going to get an opportunity like this."

Monroe made a giant jump from a 10-14 that finished in the middle of the pack in the Badger South last year to a conference co-champion and a state contender. That doesn't just happen overnight or by accident.

"We had players from our team get better, elevate their games and continue to improve," Mathiason said. "A lot of it was our kids putting in time in the offseason to get better and some of it was match-ups in the conference."

After the Beavers' 62-47 win over the Cheesemakers in a Division 2 state semifinal game Friday, Beaver Dam coach Tim Chase noticed the jump the Cheesemakers made into being a top contender in the postseason this year in the Middleton sectional.

"Monroe has two super sophomores (Sydney Hilliard and Emily Benzschawel) and Sydney Mathiason is an outstanding player as a junior," Chase said. "When you look at their box scores through regionals and sectionals, they all three have played outstanding. To go along with a couple of really motivated seniors on their team that kind of did a lot of work, they were really a tough team. What they did in regionals and sectionals was quite impressive. Tying in the Badger Conference with Edgewood and Stoughton and Edgewood playing for a state championship, you have to be impressed with the kind of team Monroe has been this year. I'm sure they will be a team that will be reckoned with the next few years."

Four of the teams in the Badger South Conference made a run to the sectional. In addition to state qualifiers, Monroe, Madison Edgewood, Stoughton and Milton also made sectional runs.

Beaver Dam senior Cassidy Trotter, a Michigan Tech recruit, who scored a game-high 23 points against the Cheesemakers, will be gone next season, but the Beavers will have plenty of players capable of filling the void including freshman Jada Donaldson, sophomore Paige Schumann and eighth-grader Matyson Wilke, already receiving a Division I scholarship offer from the University of North Dakota.

"She's a great player," Hilliard said of Trotter. "She's good dribbling and finding her teammates and she obviously got to the line a lot, which killed us because we got in foul trouble at the beginning and that killed us."

Hilliard is confident the Cheesemakers will continue to get better and have a chance to get back to state.

"We are really proud of how we ended this year," Hilliard said. "I feel like the juniors, sophomores and incoming JV players will be excited to play. We lost a lot of great seniors. I think we will be able to step up next season. I'm excited."

Coach Mathiason understands the Cheesemakers will have a strong core returning led by Hilliard, Benzschawel and Sydney Mathiason.

"Some people will just think we can jump back out there," he said. "We have a strong nucleus returning. We are graduating three seniors. It takes a team to have success. A lot of our juniors and individual players will have to work to improve their skills. It will be interesting to see whop steps up and improves their game between now and November. There are so many other things that can happen on other teams and with injuries."

Chase and the Beavers know something about heartache. Beaver Dam lost in the sectional final four of the last six years before winning the state championship this year.

Beaver Dam is scheduled to join the Badger North Conference next year and Waunakee is scheduled to make the jump up to Division 1 from Division 2. No one knows which sectional the WIAA will have Beaver Dam in come tournament time next year.

"That is the unknown," Mathiason said. "There is a good chance that Beaver Dam could be in our sectional with all of the other Badger schools next year. The WIAA will release the sectional groupings some time in the summer."

Chase said the Beavers and Cheesemakers teams could meet in a crossover game next season.

"We don't control that so we will do what they tell us to do," Chase said. "It will be interesting to see which sectional we are in next year."