Marinette’s Austin Mahlik splits two Luxemburg-Casco defenders during Bay Conference play this season. Mahlik was named to the all-conference first team.  EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Marinette’s Austin Mahlik splits two Luxemburg-Casco defenders during Bay Conference play this season. Mahlik was named to the all-conference first team. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
MARINETTE - It's hard to argue that anyone in the Bay Conference was more important to his soccer team than Austin Mahlik was to the Marinette Marines.

But most valuable player? Not quite - at least in the eyes of the majority of conference coaches.

Mahlik made the all-conference first team for the second consecutive season.

Hortonville senior Marco Delbacchi and West De Pere junior Osvaldo Ramirez were named Bay co-players of the year. Ramirez led the conference in scoring with 18 goals and five assists. Ramirez finished with 14 goals and assists.

Mahlik had 15 goals and one assist in conference play. Overall, he tied for seventh in the state with 78 points - 35 goals and eight assists - to finish ahead of Delbacchi and Ramirez.

Coaches vote for players other than their own. Ramirez and Delbacchi each had three player of the year votes and Mahlik had two.

Marinette coach Frank Pohlmann looks at Mahlik's selection as a great accomplishment rather than an MVP slight.

"I wouldn't think of this as something that didn't happen," he said. "I would think of this as something that did happen. Being on the first team two years in a row, that's a nice accomplishment."

Marine senior Zach Walcher made the all-conference second team for the second straight season. Senior Denin Bieberitz and sophomore Garrett Waloway earned honorable mention.

Teams typically marked Mahlik with one defender and kept at least one more back to try and defend Bieberitz's long passes to the speedy Mahlik. The better teams in the league at least managed to limit Mahlik's goals.

"Soccer is a team sport," Pohlmann said. "If you want to eliminate one player that is not impossible to do."

Mahlik often gave teammates direction out on the field.

"He's one of the players who really likes to play," according to Pohlmann. "Never missed a single practice. He's always there and he likes the game. That's not always the case with everybody."

Dating back to his elementary school days, Mahlik was always one of the fastest soccer players, Pohlmann recalled. But Mahlik excelled because he developed his ballhandling skills.

"Speed in itself only gets you so far," Pohlmann said. "Particularly the last year his shots were a lot better. The speed, ball control and shooting, he has all the prerequisites to continue playing soccer."

Walcher manned Marinette's defense like a sow protecting her cubs.

"Great defender, great speed," Pohlmann said. "One-on-one situations, it's very difficult to get by him. There are few Bay Conference forwards who can dribble by him.

"Quite frankly, I thought he should've been first team," Pohlmann said. "I would rate him among the top four defensemen in the Bay Conference."

Walcher had one goal and one assist in conference play, but there are no meaningful statistics for defensemen, Pohlmann said.

Walcher was a team captain.

Bieberitz is a rarity - an all-conference players who didn't play four years of soccer. He joined in the midseason of his junior year.

As a senior, Bieberitz scored two goals and had four assists in conference play. In addition to his long passes to Mahlik, his major contributions was a physical presence in Marinette's midfield.

"He uses his hockey skills in a unique way in soccer," the Marine coach said. "He uses his body. He shields the ball extremely well like hockey players do."

Waloway, a forward who finished with four assists, put in as many miles as anyone on the field because he ran from end to end.

"He has a very good eye for where the ball needs to be next," Pohlmann said. "Soccer is all about anticipation. I really look forward to his development in the next two years."

All-Bay Conference Soccer

First team

Marco Delbacchi* Hortonville 12
Anders Carlson* Hortonville 11
Spencer Collin* Luxemburg-Casco 12
Austin Mahlik* Marinette 12
Garrett Schlise* Shawano 12
Zach Dickmann* Shawano 12
Osvaldo Ramirez* West De Pere 11
Avery Pomasi* West De Pere 11
Joey Messina New London 10
Sawyer Buck Shawano 12
Shawn Prokash (GK) West De Pere 11
*Unanimous selection
Co-players of the year - Delbacchi & Ramirez

Second team

Tyler Zimmerman Luxemburg-Casco 12
Bryce Barrone Luxemburg-Casco 12
Alan Kapitany New London 12
Zach Walcher Marinette 12
John Boushley Hortonville 12
Jacob Biese Hortonville 10
Chance VanDycke Shawano 12
Nathan Faust West De Pere 11
Jake Rollin West De Pere 10
Reedan Abid West De Pere 11
Brayden Wilinski (GK) Seymour 10

Honorable mention

Chad Krueger Denmark 11
Austin Nellis Luxemburg-Casco 11
Collin Malliet New London 12
A.J. Sanderfoot New London 12
Parker Sullivan New London 10
Garrett Waloway Marinette 10
Denin Bieberitz Marinette 12
Zack Daugherty Seymour 11
Josh Fameree Seymour 11
Zack Sousek Shawano 11
Chris Youngworth West De Pere 12
Jacob Jennerjohn (GK) Hortonville 12
Mike Meisner Shawano 12
Hunter Sullivan New London 12