Soccer season preview: Cougar girls looking to improve
Head coach calls it potentially best team in years
After placing sixth in the South Suburban Conference last season, coach Dan Flood expects the Lakeville South girls soccer team to finish much higher in 2012.
“This is probably the strongest team on paper we’ve had in four years,” he said.
He was encouraged after the first few practices last week.
“Compared to last year, really back to when (University of Minnesota player) Olivia Bagnall was a senior (in 2008 when the Cougars won the Section 1AA title), we look better at this point since when she was here,” Flood said.
The Cougars are used to high expectations after making regular state tournament appearances since the school opened. Lakeville South won the state Class AA championship in 2007. The girls made state appearances in 2010 and 2008, but lost in the first round each time.
The 2012 version of the Cougars want to be part of that history.
“We don’t want to be that team that didn’t do well,” senior Kelly Molitor said. “We worked really hard to make this team as one. It’s almost family.”
A handful of the players were on the team that won the section in 2010 and qualified for state.
“We really want that feeling back again,” junior Emma Mickelson said.
The team lost its top player from last year, Brianna Stelzer, to graduation, along with Hannah Brown and Lexi Bernauer. Flood described Stelzer as a “once-in-a-blue-moon” type of player.
Rachel and Emma Michelson are back, along with Mikayla Jacobson and an army of young talent, including sophomores Sarah Heintze, Sarah Beaton and Madelyne O’Reilly.
Add Katie Bougie, who Flood said was like a whole new player this year, and all potential starters were either everyday players or at least got into a few games in 2011.
“We’re so far ahead of where we were last year at this point,” Jacobson said. “I feel like we have a good chance to be one of the top teams in the conference.”
The trouble in 2011 was scoring enough goals – Lakeville South averaged 1.9 per game.
“Midfield and defense are solid, but the big difference is the forwards are going to be able to score this year,” Flood said.
The biggest question on defense that allowed just 0.7 goals per game last season is selecting a goalie.
“We have about four girls competing right now,” Flood said. “I feel good about them.”
The season begins on Thursday, Aug. 30, with a home game against Rochester Century. The South Suburban Conference opener is Sept. 6 against Eastview.
The conference appears as strong as ever with Lakeville North, last year’s conference and Section 1AA champion, returning several key players along with fellow state participants Eastview and Class AA runner-up Burnsville.
“If we get some breaks this year, I think we can get 13 or 14 wins,” Flood said.
Last year’s Lakeville South boys soccer team was senior-heavy, meaning several new players will be asked to step up in 2012.
“So far, each player has shown an ability to learn from coaching,” coach Peter Benson said. “Once we start playing games, the concern will be whether or not the new and young players will be able to keep up with the pace of varsity play.”
David Mattia (five goals, six assists last season) and Judd Goodrich (three goals, three assists) lead the team at midfield.
Defenders Kees Myland (three assists) Cole Svendsen (two assists) hope to improve on the Cougars 0.8 goals-scored average from last year. Newcomers include Andrew Hill, Hector Miguel and Tommy Peterson.
“Most all of our players are great at playing at least two different positions,” Benson said. “Two of our top goalies are also excellent field players. This will allow us to move players around and play each team with a unique lineup each game. This ability allows all the players to understand what’s expected of them at each position and thereby play a more free-flowing game.”
Improvement is the name of the game for the Cougars, who went winless in the South Suburban Conference last year. The goals are to earn a home seed for the Section 1AA tournament and compete for the section title.