Goalie Alexis Joyce has allowed only six goals all season for a third consecutive year. She has posted 48 shutouts in her four seasons in goal. (Marlin Levison/Star Tribune)
Lakeville North girls’ soccer coach Bulut Ozturk inherited a below-.500 team three years ago. He was hoping a few young players could generate some excitement into the program.
His four senior captains — Lauren Brownrigg, Sarah Fisco, Alexis Joyce and Lauren Sherry — have done just that.
“Our goals became to win a lot more things [conference, section and state] under him,” said Brownrigg, the Panthers’ center defender who has been starting since she was a freshman. “He wanted us to be more competitive.”
In the past three seasons, the foursome has accumulated an overall record of 48-6-7. The Panthers finished third in the Class 2A tournament a year ago after taking fourth place in 2011.
“To play 61 games and only lose six in three seasons is very impressive, even for high school soccer,” Ozturk said. “I think it’s safe to say that Lakeville North has emerged as a powerhouse.”
The Panthers (12-2-3) finished the season ranked No. 9 in the coaches association poll. They finished fourth in the South Suburban Conference behind league champion No. 2 Burnsville, No. 3 Prior Lake and No. 4 Eastview.
“We are ready for big games come playoff time because of our conference,” said Joyce, who is in her fourth season as the Panthers’ goalkeeper. “Having five [including No. 7 Eagan] of the top 10 teams in the state speaks for itself. I like having reality checks during the season.”
Joyce has played a prominent role in the turnaround of the program. She has registered 48 shutouts in her career — five as a freshman, 14 as a sophomore, 16 as a junior and 13 this season.
“I feel like I’ve had a pretty good season,” Joyce said. “I wanted to give up six goals or less during the regular season, and did that again.”
She allowed only six goals during each of the past three regular seasons, including this year.
This year’s team is significantly different from the previous two squads. The Panthers are averaging slightly less than two goals per game.
“The past two years we have been really solid defensively, and we’re still that way this year,” Brownrigg said. “We just don’t have the offensive power that we’ve had in the past. We have trouble scoring.”
Lakeville North has scored only 33 goals this season. The Panthers scored 66 times in 2012 and 74 times in 2011. They have only scored more than two goals in game five times this season.
“The pressure isn’t just on me, but the back line in general,” Joyce said. “We’re relying on younger girls to score, and they’ve been coming through for us.”
The seniors would like nothing more than to finish their careers with a third consecutive appearance in the state tournament.
“The last two years we haven’t been able to capitalize on our opportunities at state,” Joyce said. “I would like to be able to do that this year.”