Before all the varsity goals, saves, wins and losses, six senior Eastview girls’ soccer players were just a group of young kids playing a game they loved.
Since grade school, Molly Beckman, Sally Nelson, Emma Mortenson, Haley Ford, Claudia Pueschner and Corinne Cole have all played on the same soccer team.
They walk out together for practices and before games, and warm up as a unit. On bus rides, you’ll likely find them sitting next to one another sharing stories and laughs. Their giggles after strength and conditioning workouts are the same ones they carry on the field.
But oftentimes, a competitive fire that pushes these girls to make each other and their team better replaces their laughs. It is evident in their team drills or even at community service events such as Feed My Starving Children, when a contest broke out between the seniors to find who could fill the most bags with food.
They have played almost a decade of soccer together and call themselves best friends off the field. On the field, they have led Eastview to a 4-2-1 start, including a shutout victory over defending Class 2A state champion Eagan.
Next year, they will keep playing in college, with five of them committed to Division II teams. Cole said she will make her decision soon.
“This is one of those few teams that have been together for the vast majority of their playing career,” said Nels Dokken, girls’ director of player development with Rev Soccer, a club program.
“They have been tight with each other this whole time and are so connected to one another.”
Beckman and Nelson are committed to play at St. Cloud State together. Ford will play at Minnesota Duluth, Pueschner at Augustana and Mortenson at Bemidji State.
Dokken, who coached for Rev Soccer for over two decades, said he still remembers them as excited fourth-graders who dominated youth soccer tournaments.
They have won club soccer’s most prestigious state tournament, the U.S. Youth Soccer Minnesota State Cup, four times. National tournaments took them to Kansas City, Chicago and Florida, and they routinely had fun wherever they went.
Winning and the hardware that came with it was important to them, but the camaraderie they experienced during long travels and overnight hotel stays is what was memorable.
Now playing in their final season together, it is still the three-hour bus rides and weekend getaways they said they will miss most.
“We always play Scattergories on those trips,” Pueschner said about the Lightning’s recent Duluth visit. “It is such a funny game to play, and we get so competitive.”
Eastview entered its Sept. 10 game with Duluth East on a two-game winning streak. After defeating the Greyhounds 2-0, it went on to defeat Eagan 4-0 and, later in the week, topped Apple Valley.
Riding a six-game winning streak, the Lightning is confident this could be its year to finally break out of Section 3.
“We want to win the section championship and go to the state tournament,” Beckman said. “It is a goal we’ve had since our sophomore year.”
Though Dokken said seeing the Lightning win a state title would be a monumental moment in his coaching career, he always will consider this group of girls a success story.
When the season concludes, he looks forward to following the next chapter in their soccer careers as Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference athletes.
“When we play against each other [in college],” Ford said with a laugh, “then you’ll see the same competitiveness come out again.”