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At the girls varsity soccer game between Park of Cottage Grove and Mounds View, Jordan Nustad(17) and Maddie Castro(10) of Park battled for the ball.

 

Starting the season 9-0 is impressive. Starting the season 9-0 without allowing a single goal is ludicrous. Park of Cottage Grove girls’ soccer did just that. With nine consecutive shutouts, the Wolfpack grabbed the local soccer community’s attention.

But it wasn’t a big deal to the team’s longtime coach, Greg Juba, who became a member of the Minnesota State High School Soccer Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame last year.

“It is what it is,” Juba said.

The 32-year coach has such a fine résumé, which includes more than 400 victories, that heading into last Tuesday’s game with Mounds View, he was not even sure if that total was a school record.

“It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure,” Juba said. “I would say it may be close, but maybe not.”

Apparently, the girls didn’t make a big fuss about the shutout streak, either.

“I don’t think they care if it’s nine in a row or whatever; they just don’t want to give up a goal. Period,” Juba said.

Both streaks ended when the upstart conference rival Mustangs scored a 4-2 victory over Park.

But make no mistake: Park has historically been a sound defensive team, and that is clearly evident once again this fall.

The Wolfpack meets before each game to discuss the game plan, formations, keys to the game and offensive and defensive strategy. Then the players share individual goals.

“Quite honestly, many of the defenders and keepers’ individual goals is to get a shutout,” Juba said. “And, of course, if you get a shutout, you get a chance to win the game.”

The shutout streak was a team effort, led by junior goalkeeper Emily Lange, who has been steady. She hasn’t had to make huge saves, but everything that’s come her way has been denied.

Junior captain and three-year starting sweeper Annie Williams handles the ball, moves quickly and defends well. Senior left back Jenna Swenson is relied on to shut down opposing offenses while taking a lot of free kicks for the Wolfpack to get the ball moving downfield. Junior defender Sam Brumm also has stepped up.

Senior captain and stopper Anna Keys was going to be a major contributor this season, but an ACL and MCL injury 15 minutes into the fourth game ended her season. Keys has verbally committed to play hockey at Minnesota State Mankato next year.

Fellow captain Katelyn Floysand, who has verbally committed to play soccer at South Dakota, has filled that stopper position for now.

Ball possession and offensive ability heavily factor into Park’s success so far this season.

Senior captain Temi Ogunrinde, a potential collegiate soccer player or track and field athlete, is leading the team in goals. Skilled and quick, Ogunrinde makes strong runs and can finish. She scored two goals each against Forest Lake and North Branch last week.

Junior Maddie Castro and Carlie Williams — Annie’s twin sister — help lead the offensive threat.

The Wolfpack took its annual overnight trip last weekend, when it defeated North Branch 6-0, but more importantly, it helped the players bond as a group early in the season. The girls went bowling and dancing after a rain-soaked victory.

Park hasn’t converted on as many scoring opportunities as it would like, but this team is pulling together as a unit in a way that’s invaluable to team success.

“If we score, this could be a real special group,” Juba said.

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