There are seasons, in coaching, you start on Page One of the playbook. All of the faces are new, the plays are new and the inexperience at the varsity level is evident from the first day of practice.
This season, Meghan Johnson and the STMA girls’ soccer team can skip Page One.
Returning two of its three leading scorers, a midfield that controlled tempo in multiple games, and a defense anchored by juniors and sophomores last season, the Knights are ready to reload on a journey aimed at the 2015 State AA Soccer Tournament.
“It’s definitely a group that has high expectations,” Johnson said. “Getting that first tournament win at state and doing something to make noise at the state tourney is a realistic goal in their minds.”
And why not. The Knights have a pair of collegiate recruits and some sophomores that are already getting looks from national programs. Their biggest question will be in goal, where Anna Thammavongas was a mainstay in her senior year last season.
“We have three girls who are competing for that goalkeeper spot, and it’s great to have that push in every practice, but in the end you want to have some consistency back there. That’s a place we’ll have to identify who our girl is,” Johnson said.
The Knights are led by junior Mackenzie Langdok, who has been a varsity contributor since she was in seventh grade. The University of Minnesota Golden Gopher recruit was second on the team in goals last season with 10, and first overall in points thanks to her playmaking.
She’ll be feeding senior forward Leah Johnson, who will be the go-to scorer after sharing that duty last year with Jordyn Walker, who is playing collegiate ball this fall. Jenny Gibbs will also be asked to pick up the scoring load this season up front.
On the back end, Mary Poss will anchor a defense that is fast and quick to recover, thwarting the counter-attacks that are key in high school soccer for scoring. STMA allowed just 18 goals in 16 regular season games last year. Senior Syd Tracy will also anchor the back with her size and tenacity.
“Syd’s kind of our leader by example. She’s not emotional, just a steady leader in back,” Johnson said.
Johnson and her fellow coaches, who have been together in the program for nearly a decade, stress team chemistry, and this season is no different. With a lot of familiar faces, it’s been easier to get rolling.
“We’re always a group that worries about ourselves and our game, we don’t worry about another player or another team. I think we’ve built a tradition and a community here the girls like to be a part of. We’ve had some great leaders, and I’ll take chemistry over anything anytime,” she said.
The Knights open the 2015 season Thursday night at home versus Burnsville High. That game kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Community Ed field. STMA then hosts Elk River on Saturday and East Ridge on Monday as the season gets in full swing with three games in five days, all at home. Saturday’s game starts at 1 p.m., while East Ridge and STMA square off under the lights at 7.