Panther girls soccer back at No. 1
Just like last year, the girls are undefeated through mid-September and they’ve earned the No. 1 rank in Class AA.
Since giving up two goals in the season opener to Minneapolis Washburn in a 5-2 victory, the Panthers haven’t allowed an opponent any net, shutting out seven-straight opponents including a 2-0 win against Lakeville South on Tuesday.
“In the beginning of the season, even though we lost all these seniors, but we still set (being ranked No. 1) as a goal,” senior defender Grace Rath said. “We wanted to be ranked No. 1 and have the respect across the state. Every game we play, teams are out to get us and it keeps us on our toes and makes us better.”
Against South on Tuesday, the teams were neck-and-neck in the first half leading to a 0-0 tie at halftime.
“We didn’t have the start we usually like to,” Lakeville North’s coach Bulut “Turk” Ozturk said. “We were on our heels the whole first half. The girls always figure out a way. We weren’t able to get into any kind of rhythm. We want to press a little bit more, especially in the first 10-15 minutes. We need to come out and be physical.”
Lakeville North’s Lauren Brownrigg broke the 0-0 tie about 10 minutes into the second half, which seemed to quiet Lakeville South.
“The first half was good, pretty even, but their first goal took the wind out of our sails,” Lakeville South head coach Dan Flood said. “To go down 1-0 is not that big of a deal, but it was almost like we thought the game was over. I don’t know what happened. We really played scared after they scored. That hasn’t happened before. It was a little bewildering. We played about 50 of the 80 minutes.”
Rath added some insurance, scoring off a corner kick from Alexa Trakalo in the final minute.
The Cougars kept Lakeville North’s star Simone Kolander off the scoreboard after scoring 9 goals and 10 assists during previous games. But Ozturk said that often opens it up for someone else.
“For Simone, it’s about the team,” Ozturk said. “As long as we’re putting up a win, it doesn’t matter how her stats look.”
During North’s winning streak, the girls swept mostly nonconference Section 1AA opponents including Rochester John Marshall, Northfield, Owatonna and Farmington. The girls also shut out South Suburban Conference rival Eagan, ranked No. 8 in the state at the time.
“Our back line they don’t get a lot of credit, as well as our keeper,” Ozturk said. “They’ve really stood out so far keeping the ball forward.”
The back line consists of Lauren Sherry, Lauren Brownrigg, Annalise Bonesho and Samantha Deutsch, who are matched up with goalkeeper Alexis Joyce.
“We hold it together as a team,” Rath said. “We’re really connected like one big steel wall. We make sure we’re always talking.”
The Cougars entered the game with a 3-3-1 record anxious for a solid conference win. Flood hopes to take what he saw in the first half with them going forward and leave the second half behind.
“We know we can play with (North), it’s not like they destroyed us,” Flood said. “The loss to Eastview was 1-0 and Burnsville was a really close game. We’ve played three of the top five teams already. I don’t feel like there’s any team we were like ‘oh, wow, we can’t beat these guys.’
“We’ll keep playing. By sections we’ll be all right.”
Lakeville North’s schedule is about to get rough. The girls will play No. 2 Burnsville on Sept. 20, top-ranked Class A team Blake on Sept. 22, No. 5 Eastview on Sept. 27 and No. 4 Prior Lake on Oct. 4.