Girls’ soccer’s success is no surprise

Published 8:47am Thursday, October 13, 2011

Column: Second Thoughts

Albert Lea girls’ soccer coach Rick Barnhill said before the season his team would play with the intention of winning a section championship.

Something easier said than done.

The Tigers had graduated two of its top three goal scorers in school history — Ariel Christensen (1st) and Taylor Friehl (3rd) — and were fielding a team with more sophomores than juniors and seniors combined.

Compounded with the team’s lack of experience was its schedule — the Tigers opened the season with five of its first seven games on the road.

Barnhill called goalkeeping a major question mark. Instead, sophomore goalie Hannah DeVries and the Tigers tied a school record this season for scoring defense, recorded six shutouts and allowed an average of less than one goal per game, tied for the best in the Big Nine.

Facing low expectations the Tigers did what they’ve always done — exceed them.

The girls’ soccer team has quietly become one of the town’s most consistent programs.

The Tigers finished third in the Big Nine Conference this season, finished with yet another 10-win season, adding to a growing list of them, and earned the No. 1 seed in the Section 2A Tournament. The section was seeded this season by QRF rankings, a computer system that ranks teams based on wins and strength of schedule. According to the QRF, the Tigers earned the top seed convincingly and are the ninth best team in Class A.

Unlike other years, the Tigers aren’t flashy, and goal scoring has come at a premium. The team has relied on speed and defense to stay in games, and girls have stepped up offensively to win most of them.

Every time the Tigers have scored at least two goals this season they’ve won — a remarkable stat that’s a testament to the team’s coach, Rick Barnhill, and his assistants.

For its efforts this season, the Tigers received a bye through the opening round of the 15-team Section 2A Tournament and play eighth-seeded Austin in the quarterfinals on Saturday night at Hammer Field. The Tigers beat Austin 3-0 during the regular season and finished with a 7-1 section record overall.

Of course once the section was seeded the rankings mean nothing and everything a team did in the regular season can be forgotten about.

Here’s to the continued, unsuprising success in the girls’ soccer program and a third state-tournament berth.

Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears Thursdays in the Tribune.