By Tyler Ohmann
Both the Little Falls boys and girls soccer teams’ seasons ended with one-goal losses in the opening round of the Section 8A playoffs a year ago.
Both teams hope that they are able to learn from those tough losses to improve in 2017.
“We would like to have a winning season and advance beyond the first playoff game,” said Flyers boys coach Julie Bell. “ Of course our ultimate goal is to make it to the state tournament.”
Returning for the Little Falls boys is senior attacker, Sam Beam, and fellow striker, junior Nik Durfee.
Defensively, senior Tyson Theimer and juniors Thomas Kunkel and Connor Skeesick return with experience.
In net, Adam Beack returns for a sophomore season after starting all the games as goalie his freshman year.
The 6-7-2 Flyers boys from a year ago are gone. So too is the team that lost 5-4 in overtime to Rocori in the playoff opener.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect from last season, but we are back this year to continue where we left off,” Bell said.
The Flyers girls team is equally optimistic after an 8-8 finish that ended with a 3-2 loss to Cathedral at home in the opening round of Section 8A playoffs.
Little Falls does lose several seniors from last year’s team, including goaltender Lauren Thielman, defender MiKel Vacek and midfielder Chelsea Moran.
However, the Flyers return 14 seniors including leading scorer Rachel Gold and co-captain Aria Kapsner.
Senior Jasmine Miller is expected to take over goalie duties.
Also returning are senior defenders Brittany Gapinski (all-conference honorable mention), Katie Orth and Emily Stoner. Grace Stockard and junior Hannah Hittesdorf will also complete for defensive playing time.
Seniors Annika Bjorge and co-captain Nicole Schilling will anchor the midfield along with senior Leah Krupke and junior Marre Welinski.
Other returning seniors include Becca Avery, Alaina Shelstad and Isabelle Pechan.
Cathedral appears to be the main competition in section and conference for both teams. Bemidji is expected to be strong on the boys side and Becker is on the girls.
The girls open the season at Detroit Lakes, Thursday. The boys team will host Grand Rapids, Friday.