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Lakeville North girls soccer team opened the fall season with the first day of practice on the main stadium field. Alexis Joyce no 77 captain and starting goalie makes a save during a scrimmage. ] Richard.Sennott@startribune.com Richard Sennott/Star

Making an impression on the first day of Lakeville North girls’ soccer practice has an extra significance. Coach Bulut Ozturk uses it to scrimmage his group of hopefuls and immediately begin piecing together a team.

“We like to get to it here,” he said. “See what we have.”

Newcomers might have been caught off guard by the aggressive first day. Ozturk spent about a minute introducing himself and his staff. The next two minutes consisted of him telling 42 girls what he was looking for, then splitting them up in teams.

If you couldn’t offer quickness, defense, communication, ability to pass and an aggressive approach, there wasn’t room for you on the varsity roster, he said. Unlike most metro teams, Ozturk offers only has 16 varsity roster spots. This leaves little room for error in the first week of practice.

Junior Polly Sjoberg “was on the bubble” last season, among 20 girls vying for a varsity job. Instead, she played junior varsity.

“I knew I was really close, but I just wasn’t there yet,” she said.

Sjoberg, a forward, appeared “there” on Monday. She scored the last goal of the afternoon and even got Ozturk and his staff to take notice.

“First impressions mean everything,” Sjoberg said. “When coach said we’d be doing 11-on-11 [the first day], I think some girls were like ‘What?’ ”

The Panthers captains — Alexis Joyce, Lauren Brownrigg, Lauren Sherry, Sarah Fisco — took notice of those eager to make a quick impression. The seniors know they have a solid group of nine returners to help overcome semifinal defeats in the past two state tournaments.

“We learned our lesson and won’t let it happen again,” Brownrigg said.

Brownrigg’s solution modeled the first day of practice. Junior Chloe Wikstrom said pressure that comes with these expectations pushes the group to be better.

Joyce, Fisco and Brownrigg also passed up playing with the Minnesota Thunder Academy to make one final push at a title.


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