Blake forward Natalie Sill considers herself one of the lucky ones.
A three-year varsity player for the Bears, Sill has experienced far more highs than lows. She was a key contributor in the Bears' run to the Class 1A state girls' soccer championship in 2011 and she leads the No. 2-ranked Bears in scoring this season with 1 7 goals.
"I've had a really great experience with Blake every year," she said. "We always have such great chemistry here, even if the team changes every year."
Sill spoke with staff writer Jim Paulsen about dealing with expectations coming off of a state championship season.
Q With everything the team accomplished last year, how do you stay focused on this season?
A Our coach [Paul Menge] does a great job of making sure we don't look too far ahead. He keeps us grounded. We can't get to the state tournament again if we don't focus on the games before it.
Q What kinds of things does he do?
A He just makes sure we don't get too overconfident. We're a good team, but we know anything can happen.
Q Do you spend much time thinking about last year?
A Well, it was an amazing experience. It was exciting to beat Benilde-St. Margaret's last year. They were No. 1 and we were No. 2. But we have to remember that this is a new year with a lot of new players. It's a different team with a new mindset.
Q You've definitely shown the scoring touch so far. What's your secret?
A It all really starts with our team's defense. We have a solid back line and skilled midfielders. Their hard work makes my work easy.
Q What do you do really well?
A I'm what is called a "withdrawn forward," so I played a little bit behind and I also check back to the midfield a lot. My job is to distribute and I think I do that pretty well. It's also my job to get my head on any crosses that come through.
Q How about set plays like corner kicks?
A I'm 5-foot-9, so I have the height that we need to find the ball in the air.
Q Does this being your senior season make you any more determined?
A It does make it kind of bittersweet. I've made it my job to make sure we play as long as we can.
Q What is the best goal you've scored this year?
A Saturday, against St. Paul Academy, we were down 2-1 at halftime. In the second half, off a dead ball, Lydia Sutton played the ball in to me and I just sort of redirected it with my head. It tied the game and we scored two more goals and went on to win. That was big.
Q Is soccer your only sport?
A I play basketball and lacrosse, too, but soccer is my No. 1 sport. I've played it ever since I was little and I've never wanted to let go if it.
Q What is one thing you have to do before taking the field?
A There is a song I have to listen to, "Run This Town" by Jay-Z and Rhianna. I've listened to it with one of my teammates since freshman year. It's really inspiring song.
Q Any tips for a young player?
A Never underestimate your opponent. Make sure you work your hardest in every game. Don't be too confident.