The clouds had been building off to the distance for some time, and they were heading this direction. No question about it.
Still, despite the ominous look of the soon-to-be sky above, Rebecca Noonan wasn’t going to let the threatening weather outlook dampen the moment she had been waiting her lifetime for.
There was, after all, a game to be played, and it was going to serve as a signature moment for both Noonan, and her Champlin Park girls soccer team.
The team members that had been around the last three years had been through a ringer of a coaching carousel. Noonan was making her debut for the Rebels Aug. 23, and she was doing it as the third coach in three years for Champlin Park girls soccer.
But, as she paced her team through its warm-up routine in a preparation for a non-conference game at Spring Lake Park School that night, she also served as a symbolic piece of stability within the program.
The head coaches had changed plenty, but Noonan was always the one constant. She coached the Champlin Park junior varsity team for each of the last five years. She’s also been a coach and trainer within the Rebels Soccer Club.
In other words, her title may have changed, but her presence at practice is anything but new.
“Out of the 80 girls we had come out, only four raised their hands when I asked if they had never been trained or coach by me,” Noonan said. “That obviously makes the transition a whole lot easier.”
The conversion should also be aided by the fact that, in almost every area of the field, the Rebels expect to be talented this fall.
Champlin Park finished last season with a 5-10-3 overall record, but their final loss – a 2-1 section playoff defeat to eventual Class AA third place finisher Centennial – served as plenty of indication of what the Rebels were capable of.
Eight regulars from last year’s team returned this spring. That list includes juniors Payton Vedders, Olivia Fulton and Kelli Heytens in the field, and Nicole Schultz in goal.
It also included a handful of others that, Noonan said mixed with the varsity rookies, makes up one of the most talented cast of players in all of the Northwest Suburban Conference.
“We really have a lot of talent,” Noonan said. “They are an awesome group of girls. They have a lot of energy, and they are really excited to get started.”
Champlin Park did get just that last week with that game in Spring Lake Park. They just didn’t get to finish it.
As expected, thunderstorms descended overhead shortly after the start, and the game was forced into postponement before the first half was even complete.
Champlin Park played again over the weekend, getting in all 80 minutes in a 2-1 loss at Apple Valley. Heytens scored the Rebels’ goal in the defeat.
The rest of the lineup during the first week included Vedders and Fulton up front, Sam Zaugg, Leah Brynjulfson, Madeline Scheinost, Heytens and Ally Fuher in the middle, Sarah Watson, Kendall Soderstrom and Kalli Zimmerman on defense, and Schultz in as keeper.
Karina Herrera and Ali Zopfi also saw action, as did ninth-graders Alysa Hlavinka and Alexandra Carlson.
“Everybody out here can play, and will play,” Noonan said, whose team will play host to Armstrong Aug. 28 and then at Park Center Aug. 30.
“I know the way they finished last year was because they were so persistent and wanted to improve and get better. They worked hard at it, and it showed. And then they worked hard all summer long to come into this season ready to go. They were prepared and in shape. They’ve looked wonderful.”