Orono girls set eyes on another conference championship

By CHRIS JOHNSTON
FOR THE PIONEER

After two weeks of team selection, opening scrimmages, and initial practices, the Orono Girls Soccer team is ready to kick-off its season and earn an eleventh consecutive conference championship and a berth in the state tournament.

The Spartans enter the season as the defending Wright County Conference Champions and are currently seated as fifth in the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association poll.

Coach Erin Murray is beginning her 13th season as head coach of the Spartans and will be supported by a strong coaching staff fielding three teams.

In his fourth year, Pat Prindle, director of coaching and player development for Orono Thunder Soccer, will continue as varsity assistant coach. Mallory Purdy has returned for her fifth year as the junior varsity coach and will be joined by co-head coach Jen Hansen. Grant Stein will return for his second year and lead the C-squad. This year, the Spartans also welcome new goalie coach and Orono alum Abby Personius.

Murray, Hansen, Purdy, and Personius are graduates of Orono High School, an indication of the strength of the program.

“We have a strong team this year with a great balance of veteran and rookie players,” Coach Murray said.

On a current squad of 17, with 13 letter winners returning, the Spartans are strong in every position.

“We look strong offensively and defensively as we are returning our top five offensive players (goals and assists from last year) and Clare Gagne returns in goal along with an experienced defensive line,” Murray said.

This year’s senior varsity players include Leah Goehring, Anna Hughes, Paige Krasnoff, Madeline Loder, Holly Harrison, Lily Prine and Lauren Hansen.

“From day one, the senior class has really stepped into their role as leaders both on and off the field,” Murray said.

The rest of this year’s varsity squad is made up of juniors Sarah Johnston, Emma Kosek and Sarah Michel, and sophomores Clare Gagne, Megan Marzolf, Ally Swenson, Reiley Prueter, Anna Tesar, Sadie Koltes and Grace Strobel.

“We have set high goals for the season and I’ve already been incredibly impressed with how hard this team is working to achieve those goals,” Murray said.

Vs. Mankato West
The Orono women’s soccer team opened their season on the road with a tough match against the 2016 Class-A runner up, Mankato West.

From the beginning, both teams battled with a physical defensive style of soccer and each created scoring opportunities on both sides of the field.

As the first half progressed, Orono was able to strike first when Sarah Johnston finished a penalty kick in the top left corner, after being taken down inside Mankato’s box.

With Clare Gagne protecting the goal and help with solid defense from Madeline Loder, Holly Harrison, Megan Marzolf and Ally Swenson, the first half ended with the Spartans up 1-0.

Early second half action included a key save from Clare Gagne from a Mankato penalty kick.

Midfielders Sadie Koltes, Leah Goehring, Anna Tesar, and Riley Prueter were able create some possession play in the midfield that resulted in several scoring chances. However, the Mankato West team attacked down the middle and was able to finish with a shot to the low left corner that just missed Clare’s outstretched arm.

Newcomers, Sarah Michel and Lauren Hansen each contributed quality minutes to the match.

The teams played two five-minute scoreless overtimes that resulted in the match ending in a 1-1 tie.

Ally Swenson, with her strong defensive play, was voted by her teammates as Spartan of the Match.

“With the short time we had to prepare for this game, I was more than happy with the result,” Murray said. “Mankato West is a fantastic team and it was a great match for the start of our season.”