Kicking off the season
Published 2:16 am Friday, August 23, 2013
Albert Lea drops opener to St. Peter; Tigers stay positive
After its first game, the Albert Lea boys’ soccer team isn’t fretting about the win and loss columns just yet.
The Tigers are more concerned with showing sound fundamental skills, which is something head coach Joe Squires saw his team execute against St. Clair.
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“I was impressed the most with the speed of play,” Albert Lea head coach Joe Squires said. “It was at a higher level than where we were at this time last year, so that shows promise.”
Despite falling to 0-1 on the season with a 1-0 home loss to the Saints on Thursday, the Tigers have a better outlook on the season than they did a year ago, Squires said.
Last year, the Tigers beat Waseca 3-0 on the road in the season opener. However, the quality of competition wasn’t as good, and Albert Lea followed the win with losses in three of its next four games.
“This team (St. Clair) was a lot better gauge competitively for us to where we should be,” Squires said.
St. Clair had a record of 11-6-2 last season, and the Saints made it to the second round of the Section playoffs before losing to Worthington, a team that was undefeated during the regular season. Albert Lea is one year removed from an 8-8-1 record. The Tigers made it to the third round of the section playoffs before being eliminated 5-1 by Austin.
St. Clair edged Albert Lea in shots on goal 11-7, and senior goalie Nate Hogstad earned 10 saves.
The Tigers kept St. Clair off balance by utilizing players in multiple positions. Senior co-captain Preston Smith played every position except goalie.
“I help out wherever I can,” Smith said. “Sometimes I’ll go up on offense, but defense is my main focus.”
Smith is one of 15 Albert Lea seniors. However, the Tigers have a steep drop-off in numbers in next year’s senior class. Francisco Victorino was the only junior listed on the printed roster.
“Our junior class is really small,” senior co-captain Tim Furland said. “But, the younger kids (sophomores) are stepping up, and we’re playing as a team.”
Furland will be a two-sport athlete this fall. Along with playing forward for the soccer team, he will also perform kickoffs and kick field goals for the football team, he said. On Thursday, Furland will have to choose to play soccer at Byron or football at Mankato West.
Next, Albert Lea will host Stewartville at 7 p.m. Saturday.