There was a point last season when the Lakeville North girls’ soccer team could have put an 8-by-24-foot brick wall at its net and seen the same results as then-junior goaltender Taylor Lock produced.
Lock, who has committed to South Dakota State, delivered 15 consecutive shutouts and allowed only three goals in a season that ended in a third-place finish in the state tournament.
But the wall developed a hole, caused by graduating nine seniors. This season the Panthers already have allowed seven goals in four games to begin the season with a 1-2-1 record.
Starting her third consecutive season in Lakeville North’s net, Lock is confident her defense’s wall can be repaired.
“Last year was a remarkable season,” Lock said. “But to give up five goals in three games is hard because I take this responsibility on myself. I am trying to step up as a leader, and we have a legacy here at [Lakeville North] that we are trying to uphold.”
The Panthers couldn’t have posted their historic season without the players in front of Lock. And for them to get back to last season’s form, the same holds true. Returning all-state midfielder Haley Steel and all-state defender Temi Carda are expected to help Lock anchor one of Minnesota’s most successful girls’ soccer programs.
Behind these three, Lake-ville North hopes to capture the elusive state championship it has sought since 2009. The Panthers were fourth in 2011 and 2014, second in 2013, and third in 2012 and 2015.
Panthers coach Jeremiah Johnson said the Class 2A state semifinal shootout loss a year ago to Eden Prairie was painful, but it’s not something this year’s team talks about.
It’s a new team, and the program has moved on.
The Panthers focus on what they can control, such as their shots, pursuit angles and tempo. What’s done is done, and the seven Panthers seniors carry Johnson’s message.
Also out of their control is the graduation of Hannah Cade, last year’s Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year and Ms. Soccer winner.
Cade’s legacy lives through her former teammates, who closely follow her career at Iowa State. But her defensive wits and offensive playmaking in midfield need to be replaced. Johnson said he thinks Steel is next in line.
“[Steel] has been in my starting lineup since her freshman year and is a rock in the midfield,” Johnson said. “She’s composed and learned a lot from playing with Hannah, and is now expected to take over that role.”
Steel’s long, 5-9 frame enables her to get in passing lanes, and her ability to quickly change direction makes her moves difficult to anticipate. Only a junior, Steel appears on her way to handling the situations in which Cade flourished last year.
Cade was the focal point of a team coached to maximize the number of offensive players it can have in the zone. It’s a strategy that relies on an athletic goalie like Lock and an “organized leader” like Carda.
Johnson said without Carda’s smarts and selflessness, the Panthers wouldn’t be able to run a system that sometimes puts Carda and Lock in odd-man rush situations.
Carda’s defensive presence, Lock’s development into an elite goaltender and Steel’s opportunity to follow in Cade’s cleats puts Lakeville North in position to rebuild its defensive wall and recapture last season’s dominance.
“We just need to get the confidence that we can score, finish and win games,” Steel said. We’ve let in a lot of goals, but when we get that confidence back we’ll win a lot more games.”