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New season, new league for SHS soccer team

Superior High School keeper Sam Young stretches to make a save during a game last season at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. The Spartans begin play in the Big Rivers Conference when they host Eau Claire North at 5 p.m. Tuesday. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) 1 / 2
Superior High School’s Maija Kittelson in action last season at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) 2 / 2

The Superior Spartans won their first conference title in girls soccer four years ago. The next year, they won again.

Then again.

And again.

Now, after winning four consecutive Middle Border Conference titles, the Spartans are ready to move on. They’ve jumped to the Big Rivers Conference this season, where they will play more comparably-sized schools.

Spartan head coach Len Albrecht doesn’t expect Superior to match last year’s 15-7-2 record, but he does expect the team to continue its steady progression.

“All I can say is, the players will be better players by the end of the season. That I can guarantee,” Albrecht said. “The players will improve because they’re going to be playing at a much higher competitive level.”

Among the opponents Superior will face in the BRC is Eau Claire Memorial. The Old Abes went undefeated in conference play last year and defeated Superior 7-1 in the playoffs en route to the state tournament. ECM lost in a state quarterfinal shootout, but the team is expected to make a return to state this year.

A preseason poll had the Old Abes ranked third in the state. They have made nine state tournament appearances since 2002.

Other BRC team are Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire North, Hudson, Menomonie, Rice Lake and River Falls.

Rice Lake landed in Division 3 this year and Menomonie and River Falls are in Division 2, but all other conference teams will play in Division 1 with Superior.

In the Middle Border Conference, Superior was the only Division 1 school. One Middle Border team will play in Division 2 this year, six will play in Division 3 and one will play in Division 4.

“We’re a combination of excited and nervous,” said Kennedy Grimstad, one of Superior’s four senior captains this season. “It will definitely be hard this year, but it will be better for the program in later years. The players are going to be better when they’re playing better competition.”

Joining Grimstad as team captains are Madison Newman, Kearra Thimm and Samantha Young.

All four agreed that Superior made the right decision in choosing to move to the Big Rivers Conference.

“We have a fun team, so I don’t think some losses are going to knock us down at all,” Newman said.

“It’s going to be super fun to play some better competition and just get ourselves out there a little bit more,” Thimm said. “We have a good group of girls, so I think we can handle the challenge.”

Returning for the Spartans are three players who earned Middle Border All-Conference first-team honors last season. Young returns for her final season in goal, fellow senior Emma Roden is back on defense, and junior Maija Kittelson returns at midfield. Grimstad, a forward, was All-Conference honorable mention last season.

Defense may be a question mark for the Spartans after losing three starters from last year. Players lost to graduation include four-year starters Isbella Evavold and Maddy Plunket (all-conference second team), Sage Olson and Hannah Toland.

“That was sad to see them go, but we’ve got some good girls that are going to jump in,” Albrecht said.

Returning along with Roden and Kearra Thimm are juniors Kaylea Holt and Sidney Thimm, Kearra’s sister. Newcomer Drew Urbaniak, a freshman, will also see playing time.

On offense, the Spartans must replace conference player of the year Amber Welsh at forward and Lorena Lane, all-conference first team, at midfielder.

Ashley Welsh, Amber’s sister, is expected to provide depth at forward this year along with returning players Grimstad, Erin Walpole and Katheryn Polkinghorne. Freshman Niya Wilson could also make an impact this year, Albrecht said.

At midfielder, the Spartans return Kittelson and juniors Addie Young and Sophie Kintop; however, some uncertainty remains at the position.

“One of the girls that was going to be my starting left mid potentially is out for five weeks, so I’ve got to figure that one out,” Albrecht said. “But what I see in front of me right now, I like.”

Superior opens its season Tuesday with a 5 p.m. against Eau Claire North at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. The Spartans then travel to Eau Claire Memorial Thursday to take on the defending conference champions.

“I think we’re going to get underestimated,” Thimm said. “There’s a few teams that know how we play … but I think we get underestimated a lot.

“We have a really solid team, and we work together.”

Thimm and her fellow team captains did acknowledge, however, that playing in the BRC will require some adjustment if Superior hopes to be successful.

“I think our skills will have to be a lot more technical,” Newman said. “Just our simple skills like passing will have to be sharper, and we’ll have to be 100 percent on all of our skills. We can’t just play hard half of the game.”

Last season, the Spartans often had games decided after the first half.

Superior went 13-1-2 in the Middle Border Conference and had seven shutouts in its first 10 games. The Spartans ended the regular season with a sparkling record, but it came at the cost of their competitive spirit.

“Last year, sometimes we kind of played to the other team’s level,” Grimstad said. “If we were winning by seven or something, we’d kind of ease off and not try as hard.

“This year it will be good to be on the other side so we’re putting in full effort the whole game. I think it will really help us.”

In goal

Samantha Young knows she’ll be busier in goal this season, but she welcomes the challenge.

“I’m excited to get more shots,” she said. “At least I’ll touch the ball a little bit more, so it won’t be as boring.”

Young said she didn’t face a single shot on goal during several games last season, and she rarely faced more than five in a game.

“I think she had the most number of shutouts in a row,” Thimm said.

“I did,” Young said. “And I didn’t even do anything.”

The senior finished with more than a dozen shutouts last season.

Junior varsity

Superior’s varsity players expect to improve by playing a more competitive schedule in the BRC, but the junior varsity squad may be the biggest beneficiary of Superior’s conference move.

For the first time in years, the team is guaranteed a full junior varsity schedule.

“In previous years, our JV squad ended up playing 20- to 30-minute halves and sometimes no JV game at all since some MBC teams didn’t have enough players to field a JV team,” Albrecht said. “In the MBC, JV always played after the varsity games — because they usually had only one field — and teams wanted to get home at a decent time, so the JV games were shortened.”

This season, the Spartan JV team will play a full 90-minute game, beginning at the same time as the varsity match.

Superior High School

2017 Girls Soccer Schedule

Tue., April 11...... vs. E.C. North, 5 p.m.

Thur., April 13..... at Eau Claire Mem., 5 p.m.

Tue., April 18...... vs. Hudson, 5 p.m.

Thur., April 20..... Chippewa Falls, 5 p.m.

Tue., April 25...... vs. Menomonie, 5 p.m.

Thur., April 27..... vs. River Falls, 5 p.m.

Tue., May 2........ at Rice Lake, 7 p.m.

Thur., May 4....... at Eau Claire North, 5 p.m.

Sat., May 6......... Wau. West Quad, 10 a.m.

Tue., May 9........ vs. E.C. Mem., 5 p.m.

Thur., May 11..... at Hudson, 5 p.m.

Tue., May 16...... at Chippewa Falls, 5 p.m.

Thur., May 18..... at Menomonie, 5 p.m.

Sat., May 20....... Superior Quad, 10 a.m.

Tue., May 23...... at River Falls, 5 p.m.

Thur., May 25..... vs. Rice Lake, 7 p.m.

Thur., June 1...... WIAA Regional Semifinal

Superior High School

2017 Girls Varsity Roster

Head coach: Len Albrecht

Maija Kittelson....................... Jr.        Mid

Erin Walpole........................... So.          F

Sophie Kintop......................... Jr.        Mid

Katheryn Polkinghorne........... Jr.            F

Sidney Thimm........................ Jr.           D

Chloe Kintop........................... So.          D

Maddy Newman...................... Sr.       D/M

Ashley Welsh......................... Jr.            F

Addie Young........................... Jr.        Mid

Emma Roden.......................... Sr.           D

Kearra Thimm......................... Sr.           D

Kennedy Grimstad.................. Sr.           F

Kaylea Holt............................. Jr.           D

Drew Urbaniak........................ Fr.           D

Niya Wilson............................ Fr.            F

Kate Lisak.............................. Jr.        Mid

Samantha Franta.................... Jr.           D

Josie Manning........................ Jr.        Mid

Natalie Stodola....................... Jr.           D

Jesica Burgaler...................... Sr.       Mid

Sam Young............................. Sr.     GK/F

 

Superior High School

JV Roster

Hadeel Huwasih..................... So.   Mid/F

Crystal Allen........................... So.          F

Rebecca Benvie..................... So.          D

Skyler Rogge.......................... Jr.        Mid

Megan Jaszczak..................... So.          D

Mystic Raddatz....................... Sr.     GK/F

Alexis Bruns........................... Fr.            F

Brayleigh Keliin...................... So.      Mid

Hannah Hockenbrock............. Fr.        Mid

Morgan Brown/Ratajak........... Jr.           D

Brooke Olson.......................... So.          D

Kelly Larson........................... So.          D

Alyssa Balenger..................... So.      Mid

Clair King................................ Fr.        Mid

Kaitlynn Larson...................... Fr.        Mid

Lia Loberg............................... Fr.        Mid

Isis Bond................................ Fr.           D

Morgan Love........................... So.    GK/D

Alley Rude.............................. Fr.           D

Allissa Yeazle........................ Fr.    D/Mid

Kendra Young......................... Fr.        Mid

Lauren Raboin........................ So.    GK/D

Izabel Swanson...................... Fr.     GK/D

Assistant coaches: Val Poynter, Jake Swanson.

Managers: Brandon Conklin, Eddie O’Brien, Hunter Wilmore, Jarrett Kallinen

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