Lumberjacks aim for section finalsCloquet returns a core of midfielders in seniors Emily Rikkola, Carley Esse, Kristi Konietzko and junior Becca Hammond. Back in goal are senior Kenzie Rathe and junior Emily Conner.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Facing a team they defeated just seven days earlier, Maija Doran and her soccer teammates watched helplessly as Duluth Denfeld ended Cloquet’s season early last October.
“It was bad,” Doran recalled about the 5-0 shutout loss to the Hunters at Public Schools Stadium. “There was a lot more that we could have shown that day, but we didn’t sit on it.”
They worked past it.
Since that difficult October afternoon, the Lumberjack girls have used their offseason to prepare for this fall, Doran explained.
“We’ve come in with better fitness and better skills, too,” said the Cloquet junior forward. “Sure, our last game wasn’t good, but you can sit around and think about it. You learn.”
Doran said many of the Cloquet girls returning to this season’s squad played in the summer under Coach Dustin Randall in the U-17 league. Arranged with older and younger players, Doran said the team learned a lot and is now taking those experiences into the high school season.
“I think we’re all pretty solid players and all in the mix this year,” said Doran, a 5-foot-3 goal-scorer, who led the Lumberjacks with 15 goals and five assists for 20 points last season. “We still have a ways to go yet, but we’re figuring out where we all work best together. I’m excited for this season.”
As is Randall. Now in his fourth year coaching at Cloquet, Randall agreed that the team is starting off strong.
“I think we’re ahead of where we were last year,” said Randall, who coached the Lumberjacks to state in his inaugural 2009 season. “The girls are working hard and I feel like we’re confident.”
Perhaps that’s because – along with Doran leading the attack up front – Cloquet returns a core of midfielders in seniors Emily Rikkola, Carley Esse, Kristi Konietzko and junior Becca Hammond. Back in goal are senior Kenzie Rathe and junior Emily Conner. Freshman forward Anna Fossen played this summer, too.
Randall explained with additional attackers up front, they won’t need to rely on Doran as heavily, balancing out their field.
“We have a good strong center of the field; I really like our midfield,” Randall said. “Maija has proven she can put the ball in the net and I like what she’s been doing, but we’re going to be focusing on the team as a whole. We have a ways to go yet. Our goal is the section final. I think it will be a disappointment if we don’t make it.”
Cloquet opens its season Friday and Saturday at home.
“I think we can be in that mix of teams up there in the end, hopefully,” Doran said. “We need to build on our teamwork, but we’re pretty solid, but other teams are going to be solid, too. We just have to continue working together and mesh.”
Beginning from last season, they have a pretty good head start.
“I think we’ve gotten in a lot more work already, and are more intense, too,” Doran continued. “Like every year, it’s a new year.”