Lightning trying to avoid taking backward step

Eastview's Erin Lunde (right) moves the ball upfield against White Bear Lake. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy
Eastview’s Erin Lunde (right) moves the ball upfield against White Bear Lake. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Two games, no goals allowed. Eastview girls soccer coach David Herem won’t complain about that, even though he didn’t expect the shutout streak to go on all year.

The Lightning, a regular contender for conference and state championships, is retooling, but the state coaches association believes the team can do that on the fly. It put Eastview at No. 8 in its preseason Class AA poll. Eastview was one of five South Suburban Conference teams in the top 10; the others are Burnsville (fourth), Eagan (fifth), Prior Lake (seventh) and Lakeville North (ninth).

Last week was so far, so good for the Lightning, which defeated Cretin-Derham Hall 1-0 and White Bear Lake 2-0, both on the road. A bigger test awaited Eastview on Tuesday, when No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Minnetonka came in for the Lightning’s home opener.

“Two games in two days, one on grass, one on (artificial) turf, and we used two different lineups,” Herem said following Saturday’s victory at White Bear Lake. “We wanted a challenge, and we think our girls responded.”

Eastview was 13-3-3 last year and reached the Section 3AA championship game before losing to Burnsville. But many of the top players from that team graduated and moved on to college soccer, leaving vacancies for new players to fill.

It’s not an issue of talent, Herem said. The Lightning has players who compete at a high level for Dakota Rev and several other local clubs. It’s putting together the right combinations – and in a hurry because South Suburban Conference play starts next week.

“I know we have the right 18 kids,” Herem said of his varsity roster. “There are so many good kids. We’ve had a couple of different shapes (formations) on our first two matches and the kids adapted well.”

Senior captain Lizzy Fontes, one of Eastview’s returnees from last season, scored against White Bear Lake. Senior midfielder Kylie Morken added a goal in the second half.

Junior defender Mia Giorgi scored in the Lightning’s victory Friday over Cretin-Derham Hall in a game that was part of Prior Lake’s tournament at the Savage Sports Dome.

Senior midfielder Maddie Haworth and senior defender Claire Pueschner also are Eastview captains. Senior Kealie Espinda Banick and junior Christina Barry also will help anchor the defense. Sophomore goalkeeper Claudia Pueschner earned shutouts in her first two varsity starts.

Eastview plays on the road at Bloomington Jefferson at 5 p.m. Thursday and at East Ridge at 1 p.m. Saturday. The conference opener is at home against Apple Valley at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2.

The Lightning will play each of the other four ranked South Suburban teams, including Eagan, Lakeville North and Prior Lake in a three-game stretch that closes the regular season.

Herem said the Lightning wouldn’t want it any other way.

“We don’t really want games that we could win 6-0 or 7-0. Those aren’t beneficial to us,” the coach said. “We’ve always sought out good competition. It’s been that way since before I became coach.”