Goalkeeper Aly Cole’s broken collarbone is the only thing that hasn’t gone right lately for the Andover girls’ soccer team.
After a third-place finish in the Class 2A state tournament last fall, the Huskies return eight starters, including senior forward Erin Becker, who scored 26 goals to smash the school record.
Add in the team’s status as defending Northwest Suburban Conference champion and it’s clear why Cole, another senior, said, “Everyone is super-pumped. We’ve been talking about this season all summer.”
Andover opens conference play Aug. 29 at Anoka hoping for another successful start. The Huskies won 11 of their first 12 games last fall, then enjoyed a strong postseason run.
They held a 1-0 halftime lead against eventual state champion Centennial before falling 2-1 in the state semifinals. Their win over Minneapolis Washburn in the third-place game capped a season that left returning players hungry for another shot.
“It gave us momentum for this season, to try and go further and do even better,” said forward Rebecka Musungu, who tallied a goal against the Millers to finish with 14. “There has been a lot of excitement. We have high expectations for ourselves going forward. We just need to stay focused on what we want, like last year.”
Then-freshman midfield sensation Kelsey Kallio joined Musungu on the score sheet against Washburn. Kallio didn’t expect to start the season’s first game. “They called my name and it was like, ‘Whoa, I don’t really know what to do,’ ” she recalled.
Her talent soon emerged.
“She was our little freshman, but she added so much to the team,” Cole said.
No position group was gutted by graduation, leaving veterans at every turn. That means many playmaking opportunities for Kallio, the team leader with 14 assists last season. “I know that I’ll have people on the field that I can trust when I send through balls,” Kallio said.
The Northwest Suburban Conference, home to tough teams such as Maple Grove and Centennial, will give Andover challenges. The Huskies went 11-1-1 and edged Centennial by one point in the conference standings.
While Cole’s teammates are taking the season game-by-game, forgive her for looking ahead to the Sept. 12 trip to Blaine. That’s the day after doctors cleared her to resume playing. Initial projections had Cole missing almost the entire regular season.
Her injury came this summer as she dove for a loose ball, took out an opponent’s legs and felt the girl fall on her.
“I heard a crunching noise,” Cole said. “I was like, ‘That’s probably not good.’ ”
Cole, a team captain, remains active in practice. She can run and stop shots; she just can’t dive or absorb contact.
Perhaps more importantly, she supports teammates and embodies the team’s “Power of One” motto.
“We’re all excited because we know we’re going to be good,” Cole said. “But it also comes with having a huge target on our backs all season. So we can’t get too full of ourselves, but I don’t think anyone on this team is really like that.”