Three years ago, Watertown-Mayer High School didn’t even have a varsity soccer program.
Now, the Royals are entering the 2013 season trying to build on a winning season that saw them finish 10-7 last year. It was a remarkable turnaround for the Royals under first-year head coach Lindsey Rague, after finishing 2-12-1 in the previous year in their first year back at the varsity level.
“Now this year the pressure is on to show it wasn’t just a fluke,” Rague said.
Rague said last season’s success was thanks in large part to a mental edge the team developed.
“Last year for us, I think more than anything, it was the intangibles that kind of shined through,” she said. “It was the belief that we could win, having faith in each other, and having the confidence to go out there and start and finish each game. The skill set has always been there. The big thing is that we finally believed we could do it.”
If the Royals hope to duplicate last year’s success, they’ll face plenty of challenges, most notably the loss of nine seniors from last year. The team, which is not a member of any conference, will also play a tougher schedule this year. They’ve already gotten a taste of some tough competition, hanging in there in a 2-1 loss to Delano to open the season on Aug. 23, followed by a 3-2 loss to Waconia on Aug. 27.
“We purposefully set a tougher schedule this year because we felt like it was time to move up,” Rague said. “The big thing is definitely to avoid blowouts (against the stronger teams). Both our games so far this year were well played and extremely close, and both of those were against teams that had just dominated us in the past.”
Rague said the team has made great strides in several aspects of the game in recent weeks, but the key now moving forward is to put it all together.
“It’s just cleaning up the technical aspect of the game,” Rague said. “All the basics have gotten better. Their passing is a lot better, their shooting is better and their movement has gotten better. Now, it’s just connecting the dots and doing all three at the same time.”
Not only did the Royals lose nine seniors to graduation, but they’ll also be without several key defensive players. Tina Scanlon and Lindsey Goetz will both miss the entire season with injuries. That will put some more pressure on defenders Jenna Thompson and Sydney Lague and goalkeeper Lexy Heldt. Thompson and Heldt, both seniors, and Lague, a junior, are serving as the team’s captains this year.
Most notably, the team also returns sophomore forward Katie Heilman. Heilman has already led her team in scoring each of the last two years, and is off to a strong start in 2013 as well.
The Royals will also get a boost from some of their younger players, including a group of four freshmen that Rague said offer a promising glimpse at the program’s future.
“We’ve been real fortunate with our freshman class this year,” Rague said. “There’s only four of them that are healthy and able to play, but that is the first group that has been in the Crow River soccer program since Day 1, and has really come up through the system, and it shows. Their skill level is far beyond where our older girls were at when they were in ninth grade.”
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]