Lourdes enters state tournament with 13 seniors
Meredith Rolf's soccer teammates haven’t all been exactly the same forever. It just seems that way.
Rolfs is one of 13 seniors on the Rochester Lourdes girls soccer team which is the favorite in its’ Class A state quarterfinal game against Esko/Carlton at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Cloud State University.
Most of the seniors have been on the varsity since their sophomore season, and for many their soccer connection started years before that.
"There is a group of seven of us who have played together since third or fourth grade," said Rolfs. "Looking back now it’s neat that we all stuck with it all the way through high school.
"I don’t know if it’s unusual; it’s all I’ve ever known."
Lourdes head coach Sarah Groven confirmed that it’s unusual enough; this is by far the largest group of seniors she has had on one of her teams.
"When these seniors were freshmen there was 20 out for soccer, so it was an unsually big class to start with," said Groven, who has guided Lourdes to state for the seventh time, and the first time since 2008 when the Eagles finished fourth.
"I’ve got a lot of leadership in that group," Groven said. "They know my expectations and they know what to expect from each other after playing together for many, many years.
"Some of them get more playing time than others but they all understand their roles and importance on the team."
Rolfs and senior Stephanie Helt are team co-captains and they say there has been surprisingly little drama between them after all these years.
"We have never really had any conflicts or confrontations with one another," said Helt, who was named to the Class A All-State first team this week.
Helt is the only current player who was on the last Lourdes team that went to state in 2008. She was a freshman and had just broken into the starting lineup when she suffered a torn ACL in the state quarterfinal win over Albert Lea and didn’t get to play at the Metrodome.
"That’s big motivation for me (to reach the semifinals), that’s for sure," Helt said. "It’s so much fun experiencing this with all of my friends; it makes the experience so much better."
Rolfs and Helt are both hoping to play college soccer, but neither has settled on a school yet. This tournament could be their swan song as teammates.
"This team is so close," Rolfs said, "it’s like my second family."
SHOOTING STAR LEADS ESKO: In the state tournament opener Lourdes will keep a close eye on Esko/Carlton senior Caitlin Lilly, who has been a scoring machine for the Eskomos.
Lilly, who was named All-State First Team for a second time this week, has accounted for 23 of the team’s 42 goals entering the state tournament. She also has four assists for 27 total points.
"We’re for sure aware of her; 24 goals is a lot of goals," Groven said. "At the same time I do not want to change our defensive plan because of one player."
Lourdes counters with a more balanced attack with three players doing the bulk of the scoring; Helt (13 goals, 5 assists), senior Hannah Anderson (16, 9) and sophomore Emily Glynn (12, 4).
Anderson and junior sweeper Krissy Resman were All-State honorable mentions. Resman and senior goalie Marissa DiCecco have led the Eagles to 12 shutout wins, and have allowed only one goal in the last six games. The Eagles have outscored their opponents 69-16.
"We’re very balanced up front on offense and back on defense; we’ve got a pretty solid attack," Groven said.
"I’m just looking for a solid performance, for a solid 80 minutes. We’ve had some challenge putting two strong halves together."