A strong summer of offseason workouts and a new, more aggressive style of play could mean there are big things in store for the Watertown-Mayer girls’ soccer team this season.
In its first year back at the varsity level last year, the Royals struggled to a 2-12-1 record with just 14 goals throughout the season. But thanks to a dedicated group of players who spent their summer working to get better, and a new offensive attack designed to create more goal-scoring opportunities, first-year head coach Lindsey Rague believes her team could be in for a big turnaround.
“They’ve been working real hard this offseason,” said Rague, who was an assistant coach under Gene Evers last season. “This is probably one of the most rigorous offseason training that they’ve been through. Our expectations for them are pretty high at this point. We’re looking to turn the page in the program. They’re definitely conditioned and ready for it. You can feel the atmosphere in the program is different. We’re definitely expecting a lot of wins this year.”
Besides the new attitude within the program, Rague is trying to address the team’s sluggish offense by implementing a 4-4-1-1 offense this year, an attack that really emphasizes creating scoring opportunities.
“We’re looking for a lot of goals in the net, which is something they really lacked last year,” Rague said. I think we have the skill set to be able to do that this year. We’re looking to put up a lot pressure this year. We’re hoping for three or four goals a game.”
Many of those goal-scoring opportunities will likely belong to freshman Katie Heilman, who scored five of her team’s 14 goals last year as an eighth grader. Rague said she’s also expecting big things from senior leader Lisa McCain, who was second on the team last year with four points, including two goals.
Other players who scored for Watertown last year that return this year include freshman Olivia Wabbe, who had two goals as an eighth grader, and junior Ally Matrella, who had two goals last year as well. Senior Morgan Menke missed much of last year with an injury, but did notch a goal, and senior Brianna Mogard also had one goal.
Rague knows even more players will need to step up this year, and with a group of nine seniors and talented underclassmen, she is confident that will happen. She said it’s still too early to tell, though, exactly who those players might be.
“It’s a good hard to tell, because we’ve had some surprises as to who is stepping up,” Rague said. “Definitely in that freshman and sophomore group, we’ve had a lot of kids rise up and beg for that role on the team.”
In switching to a 4-4-1-1 scheme, however, it will be imperative for the Royals to score more than they did last year, as the attacking scheme leaves the defense much more vulnerable. However, the defense that was anchored by Courtney Fisher, Jenna Thompson, Tina Scanlon and Sydney Lague returns in tact.
Lexy Heldt, who led the team with 105 saves last year, returns in goal as a junior for the Royals. Rague said she will be pushed by Allison Anderson, who has also looked good, and will create some competition at keeper.
“(The 4-1-1-1) does put a lot of pressure on the defense,” Rague said. “We’re working on closing the gaps as far as where teams could expose our weaknesses, but I definitely think we have a strong enough defense to handle that.”
The Royals play their season opener on Thursday, Aug. 23, when they play host to Detroit Lakes at 5 p.m. The Royals will jump right back into action Saturday, Aug. 25, when they travel to take on Rockford at 11 a.m., and they will also play Monday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. at Delano.
“They started their captains’ practice back in June, so they’ve been training all summer for this,” Rague said. “I think that has allowed us to set the expectations even higher than they’ve been in the past. I’m looking forward to seeing if we can fulfill the dreams and the goals we’ve set for ourselves.”