Next season Andover and Spring Lake Park will compete for the same Northwest Suburban Conference title.
Monday evening, the Huskies opened the 2014 campaign with a 17-12 loss against a much different looking Spring Lake Park squad.
The Panthers broke a three-game losing skid to start the season by patiently building its attack for scoring opportunities in what was a game of runs for both sides.
Panthers Deanna Edwards scored to make it 4-1 with 13:12 left in the opening half.
Andover came back with quick, fast break goals and tied the game at 4-4 on a shot from Karah Lodge with 9:36 left.
Spring Lake Park surged ahead with four more goals to end the half leading 8-4.
Andover once again surged and tied the game at 9-9 on another goal by Lodge with 14:17 left in the game.
That’s when Spring Lake Park took control of the contest in the final 13:57 for the first win of the season.
New Panthers coach Vernon Letourneau said the start of the season has been difficult.
“It’s been tough because they’ve had to relearn everything about the game. There was a certain level of learning with basic terminology so we started over,” he said.
While the snow kept the team inside for practice, Letourneau had the team write the new things they’ve learned about the game on the board.
“We had a chalk talk and they came up with 30-35 new terms, strategies and wow, that was a lot,” he said. Letourneau said he told them how proud he was that they remembered that much information but was a little embarrassed because of the amount of information he tossed that them.
In addition to bringing the team up to speed with the nuances of the game, Letourneau has used five different goalies in four games.
To combat the lack of consistency in goal, the Panthers use a methodical offense to set up higher-percentage scoring chances.
As a result, freshman Mallory Corrigan worked the ball around the perimeter like a point guard on the basketball court.
Junior Ali Kowalzek had a game high five goals to lead the way.
The Panthers added a 17-12 win the next day against North Suburban Conference foe Cooper. Kowalzek scored four times and added another assist. She also has two ground balls and 10 draw controls. Mackensay Kelly had four goal and Edwards and Maggie Ronning each had two goals.
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