Soccer season preview: Lakeville North looking for another smash
Panther girls soccer hoping to avoid one-hit-wonder status
After a season like the Lakeville North girls soccer team had in 2011, it’s hard for the players to not be excited to get the ball rolling again.
Not only did the Panthers have perhaps their best season ever, but they also were one of the best teams in the state.
The girls won the South Suburban Conference championship, found themselves ranked No. 1 in the state after winning the Section 1AA tournament, and qualified for the Class AA state tournament for just the second time.
The story at state didn’t have a happy ending. The girls lost to eventual Class AA champion Wayzata in a shootout during the semifinals and eventually finished fourth. North had an 18-2-2 record, but both losses came in the state tournament.
“They were disappointed,” co-head coach Bulut Ozturk said. “It’s normal. They understand we’re a newer program trying to emerge as a contender. It’s important not to be a one-hit wonder. It’s important for the program to build on (last year’s success).”
“It was a great learning opportunity,” defender Sammy Deutsch said. “We definitely want to get back (to play at the Metrodome) again.”
The good news is that several cornerstones have laced up their shoes for another run at state, including senior captain Simone Kolander, one of the top returning players in Minnesota.
“I believe this is her year,” Ozturk said. “I believe she’s going to be Miss Soccer when it’s all over.”
Ozturk said the Panthers plan to maximize Kolander’s ability by not limiting her to one spot on the field.
“There’s a lot of open positions ready to be filled,” Kolander said. “Sometimes I’ll be at forward, sometimes center mid, and even defense if we need to lock it in against a real attacking team. I’m just trying to help the team. I’m up for whatever.”
“She’s a complete player,” Ozturk said.
Kolander led the team in goals and assists last season.
“She’s involved in everything,” Ozturk said. “When you watch her play, she’ll draw three-four players to her, so it opens up everyone around her.”
But many of the girls she used to pass to have since graduated.
“Every other team lost good seniors,” Kolander said. “It will be different but I think we can be just as good.”
This season she’s looking for attackers Alexa Trakalo and Sarah Fisco to help.
Defense should be a strong point with Lauren Brownrigg, Lauren Sherry and Deutsch returning along with goalkeeper Alexis Joyce. Last season the Panthers gave up just 0.4 goals per game during the regular season.
Even with a number of new starters, “we’re hoping to keep our style of play the same,” Ozturk said. “We like to maintain possession and play with a purpose before we make a goal. It’s a lot of quick passes.”
Ozturk mentioned Grace Rath, Ellen Moran and Chloe Wikstrom as potential varsity players, but tryouts were ongoing this week with the coaches hoping to finalize the roster by Saturday.
The final roster will be called on to protect Lakeville North’s status as one of the teams to beat this season in the South Suburban Conference, section and state. Avoiding one-hit wonder status is important to the girls. Last year was too much fun.
“We weren’t sure at the beginning of last year where we were going to place,” Trakalo said. “It never went to our head. We want to continue from what we did last year. We had a ton of new players last year, too. Now that we’ve settled in and had a chance to get to know the new coaches, we’re not nervous about it as much.”
The girls hope this is just the beginning.
“I want everybody to think when they play Lakeville North. I want them to be scared,” Brownrigg said.
The Panthers start with a home game against Minneapolis Washburn on Friday, Aug. 24.
The Panthers were sixth in the South Suburban in 2011, which wasn’t indicative of how the boys played – especially early, with a conference featuring Eastview, Bloomington Jefferson and Eagan, three of the top teams in the state.
The boys lost several top seniors, including goalkeeper Connor Revsbeck, defender Colten Enderson and leading scorer Tyler David. But having players graduate is nothing new. What is new is that some players, including Lakeville North’s Nickeles Kirkinni and Toby Khounviseth, are passing on high school soccer to train with the Minnesota Thunder Developmental Academy this fall.
The Panthers have seen plenty of talent pass through their doors, but they expect to field enough talent to remain competitive.
The team’s second-leading scorer, Joey Decklever, along with Brendan Cole, Alex Amborn, Ramiro Benitez and Oscar Alvarez, stabilize the roster after playing many positive minutes in 2011.
“It’s a strong core of returning members,” head coach Pete Tyma said. “We will have a new goalkeeper for the first time in a couple years, which is always a difficult transition.”
They will get some reinforcement from newcomers Jorge Espinoza, Kevin Wypyszynski and Josh Meyer.
“There is a real sense of team before self this year,” Tyma said.
Tyma’s goals for the team are to stay competitive throughout the regular season, qualify for state by the end and have some fun along the way.
The Panthers would like to make a state trip an even-year affair after qualifying in 2008 and 2010.
Last season the boys came close. North started the season 7-0-2 but lost to Northfield 1-0 in the Section 1AA semifinals.
The Panthers open the season against one of the Section 1AA early favorites when Rochester Mayo comes to town on Thursday.