By DAVE PEDERSEN
Crow River News Sports
Both of Rockford’s soccer teams hope to take another step forward after showing some competitiveness when losing playoff games 1-0 last season.
The girls lost on a free kick against Watertown-Mayer after dominating play. The boys almost pulled off the upset against No. 3 seed Monticello as the No. 14 seed.
Rockford’s girls start play at the Becker tournament with games at 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26. The boys open against Maranatha Christian Academy, 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26 at the Noble Sports Park in Brooklyn Park.
Both teams are home against Cambridge-Isanti Monday, Aug. 28 with the girls playing at 5 p.m. and the boys at 7 p.m. The Rocket boys also play at St. Francis, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29. Both teams go to face Holy Family Thursday, Aug. 31 with the girls at 3 p.m. and boys at 5 p.m.
One reason for optimism by boys coach Steve Ulen is the return of 10 starting players and 12 seniors overall. Captains are seniors Blake Young at forward, midfielder Christian Swanson, defender Zach Beise and defender Carter DeWolfe.
Lucas Robinson returns as a junior goal keeper. Senior Chris Chavez was an All-Conference attacker/midfielder. Other forwards/midfielders are juniors Nick Manthana and Eliot King, seniors Spencer Hertle and Christian Silva and sophomore Miquel Ibarra.
Manthana will double as a football place kicker and wide receiver.
Defenders are led by seniors Connor Cruz, Lucas Botten and Jack Cady, plus sophomore Fabian Tamayo.
“We are expecting to have a nice year,” notes Ulen. “The Wright County Conference is tough, but I feel that we can compete with anyone this year. I have been pleased with our work ethic in practice and am pleasantly surprised with the talent level from some of our younger players.”
Ulen says the strength of the team looks to be at mid-field. He also says his players should be able to counter-attack well.
The new junior varsity coach this year is Nate Ulen, who played at Rockford from 2010-13 where he was a captain.
“Nate is a first year high school coach but has coached both at the club level and in our youth summer leagues,” adds Steve Ulen. “Cameron Myers is in his second year as our junior high coach.”
Sophomore Nels Trandahl, who started on varsity last season, will concentrate on running for the Rocket cross country team.
Girls coach Melissa Joseph is looking forward to having so many returners and building on the successes of last year.
“We have a great group of young ladies with lots of heart and commitment,” said Joseph.
The senior leaders returning are Hailey Ziemer, Heidi Trandahl, Haley Smith, McKenzie Rentz, Madelyn Johnson and Logan Henrich. A new senior to varsity is Kayla Calder.
Jade Ellis, Skyler Palmer and Neely Griffin return as juniors. Other juniors are Keely Hertle and Alexa Heidgerken. Sophomores Kailey DeWolfe also returns to varsity. Sophomore Bailey Linna is new.
Ninth-grader Sydney Manthana started as an eighth-grader. The other ninth-grader new to the team is Ellie Ziemer. Other newcomers are eighth-graders Sara Byers and Aliyah Robran.
The goalie position is up for grabs between Ziemer, Palmer and Byers. Junior Cassie Majeski, the starting goalie from last year, is on the injured reserve list and will be managing this year. She hopes to return to action next year as a senior.