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2016 preview: Park girls soccer team aims to replace some top talent

Park's Maggie Hallock chases down a ball during a 2015 game against East Ridge. (File photo by John Molene)1 / 2
Allison Best chases down an East Ridge player last season. (File photo by John Molene)2 / 2

As Wolfpack girls soccer co-coaches Stacey Paleen and Sarah Neitz reflected on Year 1 as the leaders of the program, they said there weren’t really any expectations heading into last season.

“We weren’t really sure what we were going to get with it being Year 1,” Paleen said.

Then the team started to win, and as it continued to win, the expectations grew.

Park started last season 6-0-0 before losing to No. 1 Eagan in a hard-fought contest. The team continued to progress as the season wore on and ultimately capped the season with a shootout loss to Rosemount in section playoffs.

Those types of performances, however, raised expectations heading into Year 2.

“I’m really excited,” midfielder Tina Press said. “I’ve been ready ever since we lost in PKs last season.”

“I feel like we’ll be a stronger team in every aspect,” Neitz added.

Nonetheless, the Wolfpack will have to replace a ton of talent after graduating the likes of Ciara Gregory, Mariah Troje, Megan Palmquist, and Abby Kirsch, among a handful of others.

Gregory and Troje were the top goal scorers on the team last season. And while that one-two punch up front will be hard to replace, Paleen and Neitz seem confident in the players they have coming up through the system.

“We really want to use our speed this season,” Paleen said. “We have a lot of players who can get out and run.”

Allison Best and Molly Wenner are two names both coaches mentioned as players that could step up on the attack this season.

As far as the middle of the pitch, captains Press, Maggie Hallock and Belle DeGeus have that covered, though Paleen hinted that some players might play various positions this season.

The backline will be relatively youthful, though many players garnered a lot of playing time down the stretch last season.

Then there’s the task of replacing Krisch in net. Paleen and Neitz agreed that’s a competition that will play out over the course of the season.

As the season approaches, though, Neitz knows the team has to be ready because there aren’t really any days off once matches start rolling.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Neitz said. “We want to build that confidence by playing some teams that might not be as strong. We also know that playing the tougher teams is going to make us a lot strong in the long run. There aren’t really any easy matches in the Suburban East Conference and we know that.”

Park opens the season against Kasson-Mantorville on Thursday.

“We have high expectations,” Hallock said. “We are going to surprise some teams with the talent we have this season.”

“We have made a name for ourselves over the last couple seasons,” DeGeus added. “I don’t see a reason we can’t continue that this season. I want us to come out and have some of those bigger schools know our name.”  

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