Entering Saturday’s home tilt with St. Cloud Cathedral, it had been more than three games since the Monticello girls soccer team put the ball in the back of the net. So when Cathedral struck first, less than one minute into the game, there was some justified reason for concern.
“Not a good way to start,” said Coach Brent Wuollet. “It was good that we were able to not fold.”
The Magic did what they could to keep the game tight throughout the first half, and they entered intermission still trailing 1-0.
In the second half, Wuollet saw a bit more of a spark in the girls.
“They came out of halftime and were looking better,” he said.
That better play eventually led to a goal, in the 48th minute. Emily Barthel took a pass from Gabby Laimer and was able to put it in the back of the net, tying the game at 1.
The goal, breaking a long scoreless streak for the Magic, helped turn that spark into a fire.
“Putting one in really energized everybody,” said Wuollet.
Ten minutes later, Monticello scored the go-ahead goal. Shelby Reger put the ball in the net, with the assist going to Amanda Lawrence. Just two minutes after that, Lawrence got in on the scoring herself, with the assist going to Laimer, to give the Magic a 3-1 lead.
Cathedral would score once in the final minutes to cut the lead to 3-2, but the Magic would hang on there, breaking a four game losing skid.
“It was huge to have that [first] goal scored,” said Wuollet. “That’s what we’ve lacked all season long. Sometimes all you need is that one. It was nice to finally get it on Saturday.”
Goal scoring continued to be an issue the rest of the week, as the win over Cathedral was sandwiched by shutout losses to Buffalo (6-0) and St. Francis (3-0).
The team’s overall record now sits at 4-10-1, while they are just 1-7 in the conference. Playing in the Mississippi 8 doesn’t do Monticello any favors during the regular season, according to Wuollet.
“Playing in the Mississippi 8, there aren’t any easy games,” he said.
But it does help them prepare for the most important part of their season. Despite the losing record, Monticello expects to be a high seed in the section playoffs due to their strength of schedule.
“We want to be playing our best soccer in sections,” said Wuollet, with the playoffs set to begin Tuesday. “That has been my goal from the beginning, to have the [regular] season be a learning experience.”
If they are going to peak at the right time, they’ll rely on a combination of their young players growing up fast and their veterans providing necessary leadership.
Wuollet has already given more playing time to ninth and tenth graders than he anticipated coming into this year, and he’s been very pleased with how some of them have responded.
“That’s really been one of the bright spots,” he said.”
Sam Guimont, a sophomore who has become a starting defender and Alayna Maher, a freshman defender, have really impressed.
But the Magic are still counting on their upperclassmen for leadership. Laimer, a senior, has helped keep spirits up through what has been a frustrating season for the Magic.
“She has really stepped up,” said Wuollet. “She has been a big leader on the field and has really provided a lot of energy.”
Offensively, Monticello is continuing to look for girls to step up. They’ve relied on an approach that spreads the ball around as they look to find the back of the net more often and improve on their 1.2 goals per game average.
The two girls that have taken advantage of that approach the most are Lawrence and Jamie Anderson, the team’s two leading scorers. Anderson wasn’t viewed as a scorer entering this year according to Wuollet, but she has turned it on when needed.
“She’s really stepped up and become a goal scorer for us,” he said.
At the back end, the Magic have been kept in games throughout the year by the strong play of goaltender Abbey Bradway. Wuollet said the sophomore is easily on pace to have one of the highest save totals in recent years at Monticello.
The whole hasn’t been exactly what the Magic hoped it would be coming into this year. But some of the pieces have given reason for encouragement. And with sections beginning next week, Monticello knows it has one more chance to carry the good into the new season, while forgetting all of the bad.
“The thing that has kept us going all season long is that ultimately everybody advances to the playoffs,” said Wuollet.
For more information on when and where Monticello will begin their playoff journey, visit www.monticellotimes.com for an update early next week.