PREVIEW: Forest Lake girls soccer

Maria Villella

Young soccer squad seeks progress

In 2016, the Forest Lake girls soccer team struggled to earn results, collecting two wins and a draw along with 12 defeats.

“It’s a young group this year, so we’re looking to see improvement,” coach Rich Elliot said. “They don’t know each other very well yet, so it’s fun watching them learn to play together.”

The 2017 roster lists four seniors, six juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen.

“We want to see them play as a team,” coach Amanda Hansen said. “They came in as 18 individuals, and now they’re starting to come together as a team.”

Elliot and Hansen share the head coaching duties. Elliot works with the goalkeepers and defenders while Hansen leads the midfielders and forwards.

Two midfielders will wear the captains’ armbands this year, senior Vanessa Weigel and junior Carly Walker. Walker will patrol the middle of the field while Weigel will work on the outside.

“[Walker] has really taken control of the midfield, distributing the ball and leading the girls,” Hansen said.

In the Rangers’ most recent game, a 1-0 loss to Buffalo, Walker and Weigel were joined in the starting lineup by senior Julia Montero-Ward and sophomores Morgan Kuchenmeister and Morgan Tomas.

Sophomore Maria Villella started at forward and scored two goals in the Rangers’ opener, a 4-3 loss to Cloquet.

“[Villella] is new to the team but she’s really stepped up,” Hansen said. “Hopefully she continues to score for us.”

The other goal in the Cloquet match was scored by junior Cori Hedrick, who came off the bench.

“[Hedrick] is a first-time varsity player, so it was good to see her succeed out there,” Hansen said.

Junior Teegan Johnson starts at goalkeeper. The first-team defenders are seniors Alica Schurrer and Alyssa Graven, junior Grace Navratil and freshman Abby Jones.

Schurrer, a state-level sprinter in track, will provide speed at the back.

“[Schurrer] is always helping the other players stay in position,” Elliot said. “[Navratil] is able to see thefield and help direct players. [Jones] has impressed us with a lot of foot skills and speed.”

As it is in most sports, the Suburban East Conference is a powerhouse league for girls soccer. Last season, the Rangers were unable to find a result against any of their SEC opponents.

“We have a goal of winning conference games, because almost everyone is on par with the top teams in the state,” Elliot said.

Andover won the Section 7AA title last year, beating Blaine in the final. The Rangers will meet section opponents Cambridge-Isanti (Aug. 31), Blaine (Sept. 30) and St. Francis (Oct. 7) during the regular season, all at home.

The Rangers (0-2-0) played Bloomington Jefferson on Aug. 29 after press time.