The Andover girls’ soccer team entered last week ranked No. 4 in the Class AA coaches association poll with a 10-0 record, the lead in the Northwest Suburban Conference and the lead for the top seed in Section 7AA.
Spirits were high, but it didn’t last.
Andover was stunned Sept. 20 losing to Maple Grove 5-0 after giving up just five goals in its previous 10 games.
“The first shot Maple Grove took went in,” Andover head coach Lori Snider said. “Same with the second one. It’s like they couldn’t miss. You don’t see it that often in girls’ soccer.”
The girls were down 3-0 at halftime and Snider could tell they were mentally out of it.
“Hopefully they got that out of the system,” Snider said.
The loss hurt.
“They came into school on Friday (Sept. 21) feeling really bad,” Snider said. “Teachers asked what happened and I guess they started to cry. In Friday’s practice, we focused on having fun. I think they realize that losing one game doesn’t matter. They’re hungry to play again.”
Overall the damage was minimal. The girls still maintain a half-game lead in the Northwest Suburban Conference because Maple Grove tied with Centennial earlier this season.
Andover defeated Centennial 3-2 Sept. 13.
Maple Grove also plays in a different section, so Andover is still in the lead for the top seed in Section 7AA with early-season victories over Blaine (8-2-1), Coon Rapids (3-6-1), Forest Lake (4-7-1) and St. Francis (7-4).
The loss dropped the team to No. 8 in Class AA, but Snider is focused on what she can control.
She hopes the girls learned a few lessons, which were better to figure out now than in playoffs.
“We try to learn something after every game,” Snider said. “I hope they learned they have to play hard from start to finish. As soon as that whistle blows, you have to hustle.”
The Huskies have high expectations this season.
Andover knew it had something going when the season started with Taylor Hedin (eight goals, 11 assists this season), who has been all-state since she was a sophomore, and Raquel Thelen (six goals, seven assists), who was an all conference scorer last season, returning on the field.
What they didn’t know was how the defense would hold up.
Goalkeeper Megan Dixon came into the season without any varsity experience and it turned out better then anyone imagined.
“We weren’t sure what to expect,” Snider said. “But she stops two goals per game that you wouldn’t expect and stops all the shots you would. She’s inspiring the players, too. They see her make a big stop and it wakes everyone else up. It’s like if she can make a diving save, maybe I can play a little harder too.”
Middle defenders Karlie Gehrig and Jessica Trossen were also a secret weapon Snider didn’t know she had when the season began.
“They weren’t really part of the plans,” Snider said. “We had no idea. It’s been a struggle to fill those middle back positions the past couple of years. They’ve been amazing.”
The girls should get a breather before playoffs begin in October. Andover will play host to Duluth East (2-7-2) at 2 p.m. on Saturday before traveling to Osseo (1-9-2) on Tuesday. The remaining games are against Robbinsdale Armstrong (6-2-3) and Esko/Carlton (7-4).
Andy Rogers is at email@example.com