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Girls soccer preview: Ready for the next level

Rosemount's Kali DeBaun keeps the ball away from Shade Pratt during Monday's practice. The teammates are two of the 10 returning varsity players for the Irish, looking to build off a strong finish last season.

In 2007, the Rosemount girls soccer team was a fledgling program that finished with just two wins.

It wasn't quite what coach Kevin Adams wanted from his first season as Irish coach. But even beginning then, Adams was building towards something more.

The next season, Rosemount improved to six wins. Last year was a true breakthrough with a 12-7 record and six wins in the competitive Lake Conference.

The conference has changed this season, with Rosemount joining the new South Suburban conference.

Adams' optimism and outlook hasn't changed, though.

The fourth-year coach is expecting more from his growing program.

While last year might have been a big breakthrough, Adams and the Irish hope to take another step this season.

"We weren't a very strong program three years ago," Adams said. "So, the girls had to embrace the concepts that we've brought forth and now I think they have embraced it. They understand it. They know what's necessary to compete at the highest level. They know the execution levels. They know the work ethic and I think now we're starting to see that."

With 10 returning varsity players, Adams has the core of his team intact.

Rosemount opens the season Aug. 26 with game at Chanhassen. The first home game for the Irish is Sept. 7 against Eagan.

With eight or nine varsity spots up for competition and numbers in the program increased overall, Adams believes the pieces are in place to keep the momentum going.

"We've got a lot of talent coming up and it's going to really come down to the girls that have, basically, a lot of heart," Adams said. "It's going to come down to more physicality. It's going to come down to attitude.

"I think our success this season is going to be dependent on team chemistry and injuries, because the talent's going to be there."

With senior captains Shade Pratt, Sarah Scinto and Ashley Wettstein leading the way, the Irish return a veteran, experienced squad.

Seniors Kali DeBaun and Jamie Baier, and juniors Shannon Carroll, Melanie Simonson and Becca Newman also return.

"We're bringing back kids that have all been in the trenches," Adams said. "They know the level of play that's necessary to compete. And I think that's been, at Rosemount, what we've worked hard on. 'What does it take to compete at the next level?' Because it wasn't something we were used to."

Pratt was an all-state selection last year while leading the Irish in scoring.

One of the tasks will be to develop the secondary scoring to ease the pressure on Pratt and make the Irish more difficult for opponents to defend.

"We feel we are going to have more dimensions to our team," Adams said. "We feel that what is happening with the talent we're bringing on, we think there are going to be more players that are able to do more things.

"So, if they focus on Shade, we're going to have other options, and effective options, kids that can do damage. That's important to us because if a team no longer can make us predictable, I think we're going to have success."

The challenge might be tougher with Scinto sustaining an injury that keeps her availability unknown. Scinto was second on the team in scoring last season.

Simonson and Baier return to the midfield. Wettstein, Carroll, DeBaun and Newman are defenders.

"What's nice is we've got some at each position returning,"' Adams said. "And we have some players that kind of fit in with them, so we're not totally turning over an entire defense or an entire midfield or an entire forwards, which helps a lot."

Sophomore Kate Mallory is in line to take over as the Irish's goalkeeper in place of the graduated Katie Berkopec, an all-conference selection last year. As a freshman, Mallory was the backstop for the JV squad last season.

The change to the South Suburban Conference means Eden Prairie is no longer around to steal conference titles each season. Eagan and Eastview, which finished ahead of the Irish last season and then met for the section title, are still the top competition.

A loss to Eastview in the section semifinals last season ended Rosemount's breakthrough season. Now Adams has designs on more, at least in conference play.

"Eden Prairie is gone, but the bottom line is we still have to play them anyway to go to the place we want to go," Adams said. "All that's happened now is the door is open for some other team to win the conference. We still have to prove we can step over (Eagan and Eastview).

"I feel really confident that we can finish at least third in the conference. I'd liked to say we can win the conference. We're capable. We have enough coming back, with the new talent, it's possible. But because wee haven't done it before, you have to be careful about pushing that fast. I feel we can finish in the top two or three if everything is going well, we're playing and and doing what we need to do."