2012 Fall Preview: Park girls soccer team to rely on stifling defenseLast year, the Park girls soccer team rode a stifling defense to a No. 10 ranking in the state and a second-place finish in the Suburban East Conference. This year’s squad will likely keep head coach Greg Juba’s defense-first philosophy while returning a number of players from last year’s 12-4-1 team.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
Last year, the Park girls soccer team rode a stifling defense to a No. 10 ranking in the state and a second-place finish in the Suburban East Conference. This year’s squad will likely keep head coach Greg Juba’s defense-first philosophy while returning a number of players from last year’s 12-4-1 team.
In 2011, Park allowed just five goals in its 16 regular-season games — the fewest in all of Class AA during the regular season and a total believed to be the lowest in Park High School history. Last year, No. 1-ranked Lakeville North and third-ranked Eagan each allowed six goals during the regular season. When Park won the state championship in 1990, the team allowed a total of seven goals over the course of its 24-game title run — six goals in the regular season and just one goal in the postseason. It’s believed the 1990 team allowed the fewest goals previously.
Last season came to a sudden and surprising end, however, as the third-seeded Wolfpack fell 4-1 to sixth-seeded Apple Valley in the opening round of the Section 3AA playoffs.
Park lost nine seniors to graduation last year, including offensive standouts Rachel Kothe and Karisa Land, goalie Allie Thalhuber and do-it-all midfielder Mo Castro. Castro, who will play for Kansas this fall, was four-time All-Conference selection for Park. In her senior season, she garnered All-State honorable mention accolades and was chosen team MVP, guiding the Wolfpack to its best record in four years.
However, Park returns a number of starters from last year’s team, including its leading scorer in 2011 in junior Temi Ogunrinde, who had 14 points on 10 goals and four assists as a sophomore. The team also brings back defensive anchors Nikki Schnegelberger, one of the team’s few seniors, and sophomore Annie Williams, who filled a critical sweeper role as a freshman. Other players to watch in 2012 include: junior midfielders Katelyn Floysand and Anna Keys, junior defender Jenna Swenson and sophomores Carlie Williams, a mid; Maddie Castro, an attacker; and Emily Lange, who plays keeper.
“The Wolfpack will be young with little varsity game experience,” said Juba, who is entering his 31st year as Park girls soccer head coach and is the only head coach in the team’s history. “Players will be competing with each other for starting spots and increased time on the field.”
The usual suspects will stand in Park’s way of conference and section championship titles in 2012. Woodbury, East Ridge, Stillwater, White Bear Lake and Mounds View are expected to be the teams to beat in the SEC, while Eagan, Eastview, Rosemount and Apple Valley will contend in the section. Woodbury starts the season ranked sixth in Class AA, Eagan is seventh, East Ridge is 12th, Stillwater is 13th, Eastview is 15th and Park is 18th.
“We will need to improve quickly in our pre-season scrimmages and in the first two weeks of the non-conference games in order to be ready for the SEC,” Juba said.