By Jake Schroer
Crow River News Sports
The Lady Knights soccer team lost just two games during the 2012 regular season. The first was against perennial rival Buffalo. The next loss happened against Wayzata at the state tournament. The 2013 Lady Knights know the expectations pushed upon them.
Megan Johnson enters her eleventh year with the girls’ soccer program; this season marks her tenth as the head coach. She says her girls know all about the lofty expectations for the team. New players know they are coming into a winning culture, Johnson said.
Several players from last year’s section championship team return.
“We have about seven or eight returners that played on the varsity,” Johnson said. Among key players are Makenzie Langdok, a freshman forward who led the team in points, as well as Brianna Hoffman, a senior defender. DJ Noel, another senior defender, also makes her return. Noel, Hoffman and Maddi Young make up the 2013 team captains. However, the leadership of now-graduated seniors like Maddie Barr and Jess Johnson will be missed.
Coaches deal with losing players and gaining players each year. Each year brings someone new into the fold. Two young players have impressed the coach going into the regular season. The first is Karley Mager, a freshman defender who will start. In Coach Johnson’s own words, “she’s a solid player.” The other is Tori Jenson, also a freshman, at forward. According to Johnson, she is very versatile and plays several different positions.
The number one thing Johnson teaches her girls is hard work. The team works hard and practices hard, but it also has fun. Team unity is another big lesson that she stresses.
“Support, that we’re a team and we’re in this together.”
To win the conference crown, the Knights know they likely have to beat Rogers again. The two teams seem to compete annually for the prize. Buffalo is another tough rival Johnson looks forward to seeing, along with Elk River. Last season saw the Knights sweep Rogers, split with Buffalo, and tie in its lone matchup with the Elks.
The most exciting part about the upcoming season, according to Johnson, is potential. Potential for how far a team can go. The girls remember last season. They remember the 1-0 shootout victory over Anoka which propelled them to the state tournament.
“I think they have the potential to be right back there playing in the section final again,” Johnson said. She believes the team has a good chance to get back to the state tournament. STMA plays five of its first six games at home, where the team went 9-0-1 last season. The Knights lost just one game on the road in the 2012 regular season.
Johnson believes her 2013 team can surprise a lot of people. The team has a lot of momentum off of last season, and the girls are eager to take the field. She added that those on the team are wonderful girls and that they can score some beautiful goals.
“Come out and get to know the girls,” she said.
The Knights opened the 2013 season at home against Moorhead on August 23.
Update: The Knights looked polished and sharp in a 4-0 victory over Moorhead on Friday. Freshman Makenzie Langdok led the way with five points (two goals, three assists) and sophomore Leah Johnson tallied two goals and one assist to help St. Michael-Albertville to a decisive victory in the season opening game. Anita Thammavongsa saved all 19 shots against her in an impressive 2013 debut.
The Lady Knights host St. Cloud Tech and travel to Cottage Grove this week.