The St. Michael-Albertville girls’ soccer team heads to Rogers Tuesday, Sept. 30 for a match that will, in all likelihood, determine the Mississippi 8 Conference Champion and the top seed in the Section 8-2A tournament, which starts in just a couple of weeks for coach Megan Johnson’s Knights.
Both Rogers and St. Michael-Albertville have made it through the conference slate unscathed so far – St. Michael surviving a 3-2 overtime scare vs. Princeton last week, Rogers escaping both Monticello and Chisago Lakes with one-goal wins.
“It’s huge. You hate to put too much pressure a regular season game. I don’t like to do that. But this is one case where it’s as big as high pressure as it seems,” Johnson said. “If we want to accomplish goals that we put in place at the beginning of the season, we need this one. Rogers is having an incredible season, but we want to have that playoff game at home.”
The game kicks off under the lights at 7 p.m. at Rogers High School. The two teams, according to junior Leah Johnson, know each other well.
“I’ve played with a most of them [in competitive soccer] on a summer team and have for a very long time. So a lot of us know each other. We play this game with a little bit more of intensity because you want that edge on your side. This is one you want to win,” she said. “You want it more.”
The Knights have had just one letdown this season, a post-homecoming dud at Minnetonka, which Megan Johnson (no relation to Leah) laughed off and said, “We don’t talk about that one. It’s over.”
Otherwise, it’s just a 1-0 loss to East Ridge that blemishes the record. In fact, the Knights have had six “clean sheets” on the season, a credit to the team’s defense and goalie Anita Thammavongas.
“They’ve really come together,” said center midfielder Mackenzie Langdok, who has played in a section final each of her varsity seasons. “Anita just does a great job. She’s intense. She comes to the games with so much preparation that she knows where she wants her defense in front of her. That’s really important. I don’t know what we’d do without Anita.”
Langdok, Johnson and senior Jordyn Walker lead the team in points, keying the Knights offense. But coach Johnson said the team’s defense is a huge part of turning the momentum, keeping STMA on possession of the ball, and getting the offense going.
“The girls up front just have really good chemistry right now. They’ve got it going, and it shows out on the field. And, obviously, Jordyn and Leah just have a knack for being able to finish when they have the opportunity,” Johnson, who coached the Knights to a state tournament berth in 2012, said.
This is an experienced St. Michael team. Despite losses on defense, Sydney Tracy and Thammavongas provide an experienced backfield. Practices are high-energy and focused, Johnson said. And chemistry is a huge key.
“We’re always going places together and doing things together as a team,” Leah Johnson said. “We have spaghetti dinners and sleepovers. We’ve played some soccer foot golf. Once people starting getting after each other, which happens, we get back on track to make sure our attitudes are the best so we can play the best. You have to have that right before anything else.”
After heading to Rogers tonight, STMA hosts Big Lake at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2 at the St. Michael-Albertville Community Ed field (the soccer bowl). They close out the regular season at Moorhead on Friday, Oct. 3, a Section 8-2A opponent.