WHS soccer taking the pitch, boys team determined to finish
Worthington High School’s soccer teams have differing views on what success looks like. The Trojan boys squad is determined to be a strong finisher. The Trojan girls squad just wants to be more competitive.
WORTHINGTON -- Worthington High School’s soccer teams have differing views on what success looks like.
The Trojan boys squad is determined to be a strong finisher. The Trojan girls squad just wants to be more competitive.
On Thursday, both teams will get started on the 2021 fall campaign. The boys will host Mankato Loyola in a 7 p.m. regular season opener on Trojan Field. The girls will travel to play Loyola, in a 5 p.m. start time.
A look at the teams:
Still smarting from a 1-0 overtime loss to underdog Bloomington Kennedy in the Section 2A finals last year, the 2021 Trojans have a burning desire to prove a point. They’ve been anxious to get back out on the pitch ever since that day.
“I think I include myself in this,” said head coach Juan Flores. “As a team, we have a chip on our shoulder on what happened.”
The Trojans were undefeated when they met Kennedy on Trojan Field in what they all expected would be a crowning moment and a precursor to a state tournament berth. The 2A title loss was as stunning as it was unexpected. Flores said recently that some of the players put that second-place medal in their rooms and looked at it every day -- using it as motivation.
The good news for WHS is that the boys again have an outstanding team on paper. There is a large and talented senior class which includes midfielders Menkem Mehri, Ulises Barrera and Mir Gossom, and defenders Dalen Gonzalez, Isaiah Noble, Omar Fernandez and Edgar Carillo. Sophomore Jonathan Banegas is a key scoring threat.
Last fall, Worthington was the second-best team in the state for goals-against average. This year should be more of the same.
“We’re going to have a solid defense. That’s definitely going to be a strong point. But we’re also going to have a lot of guys who can attack for us, who can score goals,” Flores said. “We’re going to stick with what we do.”
Team speed is an advantage Worthington can use to wear down opponents. The object is to apply pressure and get possession of the ball quickly when the Trojans don’t have it.
Weakness? “I like to think we don’t (have weaknesses),” Flores said. “Just as long as we stay focused.”
Victories have been hard to come by for the WHS girls in recent seasons. Every year begins with the hope of progress.
“We’re excited about this season. We are going to be making a shift in our defense,” said veteran head coach Emily Ahlquist. “For the past eight or nine years we had a four-flat defense. And we’re going to go into a diamond defense this year.”
In short, that means that instead of forming a line of defenders on the pitch, they will be set up in the shape of a diamond -- with one defender forward and another back -- to limit breakaways.
Unlike their counterpart Trojan boys, the Trojan girls do not have quickness as a strength. But they do have several experienced players.
Senior Sofia Montoya, a center/midfielder, is adept at finding the forwards. Senior Pamela Lomeli is a “stopper” on defense and a good communicator. Other top players include junior Jeidy Chavez and senior Jessinia Muniz in the forward positions, and seniors Chantel Peralta and Jenny Perez in goal.
Worthington graduated its entire defensive line from 2020, so the replacements will need to develop quickly. Offensively, Ahlquist believes more goals can be scored.
“Our goal is to really work on shifting and moving on the field as a team, and realizing that the job isn’t done when the ball is off your feet,” said the coach.