Soccer: Irish girls go undefeated in SSC, boys battle with young team
The regular season is finished and section play about to start for the Rosemount Irish boys' and girls' soccer teams. The Irish girls finished their regular season undefeated in the South Suburban Conference for the SSC championship, as well as winning their last seven matches and nine of their last 10. They also earned the No. 2 seed in section 3AA behind Eagan and face No. 7 Hastings tonight (Tuesday). Meanwhile, the Rosemount boys battled inexperience and injuries throughout much of the season and finished 5-6-4 overall (2-4-3 in the SSC). They received the No. 5 seed and take on No. 4 Apple Valley on the road.
Girls look to keep momentum rolling
The Rosemount girls have not lost a match since August and now is no time to start as they look to take advantage of a very good seed in the section playoffs. Two weeks ago at the match in Farmington, head coach Gretchen Stramel talked about how far her team has come over the course of the season.
"Things have been going well, the players have been getting a little bit more accustomed to playing together, figuring out the system," she said about her team that lost double-digit seniors to graduation last spring. "A lot of it is just creating opportunities at the goal, that's a big thing that we kind of struggled with a little bit early in the season, scoring and creating opportunities."
After winning their first two matches of the season, the Irish went on a four-game streak where they scored just one goal. However, in the last 10 matches they scored 35 goals.
"One of the coolest things about the team is that the scoring has been spread out," Stramel said. "So it's not just coming from one direction or just a couple, we really have goals and assists spread out all over our lineup."
Sophomore Kenzie Jacobson led the team with 15 goals, followed by senior Sydney Essler with seven and also led the team in assists with seven. In total 12 different players scored at least one goal on the season for the Irish and 15 had either a goal or an assist.
Contributing to that scoring is the team's change in style compared to previous seasons.
"It was just a change for us, we typically aren't bound to a certain formation or way," Stramel said. "We let the players abilities dictate that, so we've kind of adjusted based on the fact that we're a lot faster up top than we have been, so that's nice. Then defensively we graduated a lot of senior leadership in the back, so that's been an adjustment for the girls, who's going to speak up and who's going to be in charge back there now."
There is no doubt the team has made that adjustment defensively. They allowed just 22 goals all year and pitched eight shutouts.
Should the Irish take care of business against Hastings, they would then play the winner of No. 3 Eastview and No. 6 Henry Sibley in the next round.
Boys persevere with inexperienced team
The Irish boys' started their season strong with two wins over Rochester Century and Cretin-Derham Hall, but after that the team struggled due to inexperience and some injuries. Talking after a close loss at Farmington, head coach Todd Farrington said that his team was undergoing some growing pains.
"We graduated 14 guys last year and they were all really good players, so we've got a bunch of guys who've never played together," he said. "We're learning, we're young, we've got five sophomores playing."
"We're getting to know each other, we got some good results early in the year against some pretty good opponents," Farrington said. "We were riding pretty high on that and then reality sets in. Our lack of acquaintance with each other, we got exposed for some of the flaws that are going to happen with a team that doesn't know how to play with each other."
However, despite the struggles during the season, Farrington said that his team is getting better and at times playing some really good soccer.
"We're getting there," he said. "Tonight in that second half, it was so much better and Farmington's a good squad. We have glimpses where we play some really, really quality soccer. And that's impressive because we have a lot of young guys, guys that have never played at this level, the pace is so much different in the varsity games. All these young guys and news guys who have never played at this level, to step out and play here can be overwhelming and intimidating, but these guys are stepping up and playing some good soccer."
The Irish scored 17 goals on the season but also only gave up just 21. In short, they averaged just over a goal a match but gave up under two goals a match as well. They also pitched six shutouts on the year, which resulted in three wins and three ties.
Should Rosemount beat Apple Valley tonight, they would then face the winner of No. 1 St. Paul Central and No. 8 in the semifinals.