Champlin Park girls soccer lost a lot of production with the graduation of Alex Lotts, who is now playing for NCAA Division II Southwest Minnesota State University (Marshall).
But several girls are already stepping up in the attack to help fill the void left by Lotts, who had 24 goals and five assists in 18 games.
Already in three games to open 2019, freshman forward Paige Kalal has five goals and three assists as a newcomer to varsity.
Junior midfielder Megan Carlson is next with four goals and three assists. Senior captain forward Izzy Quick and junior forward Maille Mathis each have two goals and an assist, and senior captain midfielder Grace Marshalek and junior forward Delaney Johnson also have goals.
Carlson, Quick, Mathis, Marshalek and Delaney Johnson are five of 13 total returners from last season.
Champlin Park was 13-4-1 overall and lost in the 5AA section semifinals in 2018. The thought of making it to a section final in 2019 and having a shot at the first state appearance in school history is a higher goal, but coach Keith Pavelka said he wants the girls to focus on the process of improving each game before even thinking about state.
“We talked about what it takes to reach our goals and, to be honest, we talked about it being a step-by-step process,” Pavelka said. “We are trying not to look ahead to anything else. We are trying to build, and my goal is for us to be playing the best soccer that we can at the end of the season.”
Carlson had six goals and four assists in 2018, and Quick had six goals and two assists last season.
“Carlson in her junior year has really been a leader for us from the beginning, so she has just amazing skill,” Pavelka said. “She controls the game with her possession and her ability to see the field.”
Mathis (four goals, three assists) and Marshalek (three goals, three assists) also contributed in 2018.
“I think (Mathis) is going to have a great year,” Pavelka said. “And we are really going to get contributions from a lot of different players. We have to challenge them all to step up.
“We are not going to rely on, say one or two people are going to carry us. I have been talking the whole preseason about becoming a team.”
Senior forward Julia Sullivan, who had three goals and five assists in 2018, also comes back to help the offense, and senior Aimee Shute, who had two goals and an assist in 2018, returns as well.
Sophomore midfielder Allie Hartig (two goals, two assists) also showed up on the offensive stat sheet last season, and junior forward Delaney Johnson, junior defender Lindsey Carslon and junior defender Lauren Gauthier – who all had assists in 2018 – are back with the Rebels as well.
“Obviously, we lost a lot of goals last year with Alex, but the girls are really stepping up this year,” Pavelka said. “We have a lot of good offensive talent, where we are just figuring out the best places for everybody to play and how we can create the most chances that we can.”
Senior captain defender Maya Elizondo and sophomore defender Bella Vannavong join Gauthier and Lindsey Carlson to lead the squad in the back, while senior Malia Braiedy is back as the starting goalie.
Pavelka said that Elizondo and Gauthier are the core veteran leaders as center backs, and Marshalek and Hartig are the holding midfielders that also help the defense.
“That block of four really helps prevent the other team from getting many chances,” Pavelka said.
Braiedy had 82 saves and a 0.82 goals against average in 17 games last season, playing in the net for 1,381 minutes.
Braiedy was extremely vocal in a 3-1 win over Elk River on Sept. 3, guiding her defense and midfield and keeping everyone on their toes. She ended up with three saves in the game and has nine in three games so far this season.
“One of our goals we talked about is just having better communication with everybody, and that starts with our goalie,” Pavelka said. “She can see the whole field so she is identifying where the marks are and where are back four should be marking to begin with. Being a vocal leader and communicating really goes a long way.”
Senior defender Kylie Lundquist, senior defender Ava Huge, senior forward Blessed Thomas, junior defender Morgan Pietsch and freshman goalie Sarah Martin are also on varsity in 2019 and look to make an impact.
Every member on the roster played minutes in the win over Elk River, and the depth helped Champlin Park start the season with three straight wins. The Rebels also defeated Spring Lake Park 7-0 on Aug. 27 and Moorhead 5-1 on Aug. 29.
Possession was key in all three games to only produce chances but to help limit chances for the opposing teams.
“I have been happy from that standpoint ... just kind of really having owning the midfield and having that presence and having that control of the game,” Pavelka said.