Leading the team in goals and assists – even scoring three hat tricks in the first six games of the season – Legacy Christian Academy’s center midfielder Jolene Daninger is one astonishing athlete.
Exercising great stamina on the soccer field, kicking with strength and accuracy right- or left-footed and surveying the pitch with excellent field vision, the eighth-grader plays with such phenomenal athleticism and skill, she’s even inspired teammates to improve their game.
“I knew from when she was very young she would be a great athlete,” said the head soccer coach Todd Manske, adding that when the Lady Lions set their goals for the season, some expressed determination to out-run, out-score or out-train Daninger.
“She’s a real leader on the field for us. And she leads with action, leads with her play. The referees even comment on her play. That really says something,” Manske said.
And Daninger isn’t the only all star on Legacy’s girls’ soccer team. The Lady Lions are led by “strong senior leadership and a group of eighth-graders that are just outstanding,” Manske said.
Goalkeeper Emily Kirby is one of Legacy’s senior leaders. Last season she led the league in saves and was profiled for her excellence by the sports staff of a large metropolitan newspaper.
“She stopped every one of the shots on goal a couple of games this season already. She’s very strong in the goal,” said Manske, anticipating more greatness from his goalie.
Another strong senior is Spring Lake Park transfer Juliana Anderson.
“Juliana transferred in from Spring Lake Park. She had to sit out last year, but she’s a very strong player, very much a shot leader along with Jolene. We’re looking for a great year from Juliana,” the head coach said.
Kirby and Renee Scheil serve as co-captains for the Lady Lions soccer team and the head coach is impressed with their passionate leadership.
“They keep the attitude upbeat and they know when to light a fire under these kids, too,” said Coach Manske.
To round out the starting line-up, a group of four eighth-graders take the field each game day.
The girls’ head coach has witnessed those young players’ ability to step up their skills to a higher level.
“They hustle, they are aggressive. Their skill level has really stepped up,” he said.
“These kids are competitive. They’re a solid group of athletes, and we have established a reputation of a great atmosphere – they are a solid soccer team beyond the soccer field,” Manske said, describing the value of the Lady Lions’ team-building activities and ongoing camaraderie.
Late last week, with an early-season 2-3-1 win-lose-tie record, Manske acknowledged his team’s need to work on possession play and finishing, but expects the Lady Lions to finish in the top four in the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association conference and give a good go at it in Section A playoffs in mid-October.
“Park Center, Totino [Grace] and Monticello – those are the toughest teams in our section, but I know we can compete,” said Manske.
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]