Each season brings out a new excitement for high school sports programs but this year it’s at a feverish pitch for the Eagan girls’ soccer squad.
The Class 2A defending state champions opened practice Monday under an overcast sky at the high school. It wasn’t about to cloud the outlook to the upcoming season as 90 players in grades nine through 12 took to the field.
“It would be great to go out in my final season as a state champion, again,” Wildcats senior defender Anni Christenson said. “Anything worth having doesn’t come easy. You have to have a hunger for it.”
There is now an abundance of that craving within the program under second-year coach Bulut Ozturk. The opening workout even attracted Olivia Asta, Hannah Jacobson and Margaret Sipe looking on from the stands. All three graduated last spring after playing on the state championship squad of a year ago.
The title was the first in the history of the program. Eagan was the runner-up in the one-class state tournament in 1996.
“We’re going to have to work 10 times harder than last year to win the state title again,” Wildcats senior attacker said Jade King, a Texas Tech recruit. “I think we’re all willing to do that.”
Hard work has always been a trademark of Ozturk coached teams.
“We want to develop smart players,” Ozturk said. “Our goal is to take our play to the next level.”
He realizes that must be achieved in order to repeat as state champion. There have only been three back-to-back state champions — Burnsville (1992-93), Woodbury (2003-04) and Wayzata (2011-12) — among the large schools since 1980.
“We were under the radar last year,” Ozturk said about his 21-0-1 squad in 2014. “Everybody wants to give their best against the defending state champion. We now have a target on our back.”