Girls soccer team off to 2-1 start
by Nick Clark
Sun POST Newspapers
The chance at redemption seemed justified to the Champion Park girls soccer team.
A first half penalty kick had been awarded to Osseo in the two teams Sept. 4 meeting, which staked the Orioles to a 1-0 lead by intermission.
Senior Autumn Larson had evened the score for Champlin Park early in the second half, setting off a dominating stretch of soccer in which opportunity after opportunity would be presented to the Rebels.
With a little over two minutes to play, the girls were rewarded.
Osseo was called for a hand ball inside its defensive box, giving Champlin Park a penalty kick of its own that senior Payton Vedders would connect on to lift the Rebels to a 2-1 victory.
The win, which was the team’s second of the year, already matched the victory total (two) Champlin Park amassed all of last fall.
But it also came with a cost.
The night prior, in a 2-0 defeat to Park Center, senior midfielder Sam Zaugg was taken off the field by stretcher. Against Osseo, sophomore defender Dani Johnson suffered the same fate after knocking heads with an Osseo attacker.
In addition, senior forward Karina Herrera was also injured against Osseo.
“We won, but we ended up getting beat up a little bit,” said second-year head coach Rebecca Noonan. “My AD (Matt Mattson) told me we have a record for most ambulance rides. Three games, two ambulances. It has been crazy.”
What hasn’t been as crazy is the Rebels resurgence this year in their second season under Noonan.
The style she attempted to implement last fall – a pace she calls “pretty soccer” – has been refined during an offseason that she called “outstanding.”
The most notable progression would best viewed from a blimp – or any other source high above the playing surface.
“I have girls that can control the ball and move the ball really well now,” said Noonan. “Their first touch is spot on, and the one thing that we do this year that is definitely much better than last year is our possession play. We can move the ball around and get five or six consecutive passes in a row. “That is a lot different than last year.”
Senior captain Kelli Heytens has taken the reigns of controlling the play from the midfield, where she can direct the ball offensively, and the positioning of her teammates defensively.
Up front, Larson has developed into a goal scorer, and her output has been matched thus far by Vedders and Kelsey Wood.
All three girls had already recorded a pair of goals through last weekend.
Adjustments may need to be made defensively now that Johnson is lost. Noonan said the timetable for a possible return from any of the walking wounded is unknown.
That still isn’t expected to deter Champlin Park from its season long goal towards peaking by the postseason.
Last year’s Section 5AA playoffs were flipped upside down after first round upsets by both Osseo and Irondale. The lesson, in short, is regular season accolades mean little once the playoffs begin.
“We look at every game before sections as preparation for sections,” said Noonan, who will take her team to Centennial Sept. 10 and then Maple Grove Sept. 12. “We want to win the conference, but at this point, it is about preparing us to be successful in our section games, because those are what really matter. Anything can happen and we saw that last year with some pretty big upsets.”
Contact Nick Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org