by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Losing most of the fire power from last season’s high scoring team, the 2013 Maple Grove girls’ soccer squad is hoping to carry on the winning tradition with a more balanced offense and a strong defense.
Led by the prolific scoring of Haley Nelson and Kailey Beatt, the Crimson had a terrific 2012 season. They won the conference championship with an 8-1-1 record, were ranked in the top five in the state, and finished 13-3-1 overall. Nelson and Beatt have graduated, leaving the Crimson without proven goal scorers.
“We had one of the highest scoring teams in the metro area last year and lost 42 of our goals scored from that team,” said Crimson coach Ben LeVahn. “We will have to have other players step into some bigger roles and we will have to generate more scoring as a team.”
Maple Grove welcomes back several veterans, including senior all-conference goalie Casey Autey (11 wins, 1.10 goals against average), senior defenders Natalie Engel and Laryssa McLouth, senior midfielders Samantha Boonstra, Michelle Jancaric and Amanda Travis, junior midfielder McKenna Peplinski (all-conference honorable mention) and junior goalie Marissa Hamilton.
Some of the newcomers who are expected to see lots of playing time include junior midfielder Madison Carey, junior defender Caroline Griffith and sophomore defender Jackie Ehlert.
While his team is very green up front, LeVahn is still optimistic the Crimson will be a tough team to beat in the conference because of their strong defense and skilled players.
“Our strength will be in our ball possession and the strength of our team defense,” he said. “We still have the same expectations, to compete for a conference championship, a section championship and to place at state.”
The Crimson are off to a good start. They tied Edina 2-2 and Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony 0-0, then blanked Osseo 3-0 and beat Armstrong 3-2 last week. They are getting balanced scoring. In the win over Osseo, for example, Travis, Carey and Griffith each scored once. LeVahn looks for the Crimson to keep improving as the season goes along and will be a strong contender.
“I feel that along with us coming back to defend our conference crown, Blaine and Centennial will again be strong challengers at the top,” he said. “Centennial lost MS Soccer Jenna Roering but they were still a very good team and return a good portion of that team. Blaine was an extremely good team last year that played well at the state tournament.”
In the section, LeVahn sees Maple Grove, Centennial, Mounds View, Roseville, Irondale and Spring Lake Park to contend.
The Crimson face their biggest test of the season so far when they travel to Centennial Sept. 4.
Contact Bob San at [email protected]