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'Coach on the field' Khyah Harper named Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune, 11/09/20, 4:00PM CST


The Centennial senior, who is headed to the Gophers, scored 26 goals and added 11 assists in 14 games, leading the Cougars to a section championship.

“She had a target on her back but she accepted it,'' Centennial coach Ginger Flohaug said of senior Khyah Harper. ''Her leadership, her maturity and the way she communicated with her teammates really showed this season.”    Photo by CARLOS GONZALEZ ¥ cgonzalez@startribune.com

Centennial standout Khyah Harper recently finished perhaps the most important 12 months of her soccer journey the way she started it, in a room with coach Ginger Flohaug discussing big soccer dreams.

A year ago, the two met for an exit interview after a strong season for program and player. Harper earned first team All-State honors and led the Cougars to a runner-up finish in the Class 2A state tournament. They fell to Maple Grove on Halloween.

Harper entered this season with goals of avenging the title-game loss and winning the Ms. Soccer Award. That sounded good to Flohaug, who told her, “You need to be my coach on the field. You need to keep making the other players around you better.”

This fall, Harper scored 26 goals and added 11 assists in 14 games and led Centennial to a section championship — the best it could do once the Minnesota State High School League canceled fall sports state tournaments for fear of spreading COVID-19.

Flohaug kept Harper’s other goal top of mind throughout the shortened season.

“I’d tell her, ‘Show the other teams why you should be Ms. Soccer,’ ” Flohaug said of the award given by the coaches association to the state's top senior player. “I would light that fire.”

Khyah Harper

Flohaug, her camera at the ready, recently drove to the Harper home on Halloween for a noon video announcement of the Mr. and Ms. Soccer winners. Flohaug knew Harper was a finalist. Nothing more.

When the news became official, Flohaug, in her 20th and final season as Cougars’ coach, became emotional.

“She had tears in her eyes and she said, ‘I knew you’d get it,’ ” Harper said. “It was an amazing moment, and it was so special to share it with her.”

Harper, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, grew into a complete player.

“She’s really grown up,” Flohaug said. “She had a target on her back but she accepted it. Her leadership, her maturity and the way she communicated with her teammates really showed this season.”

Harper said she sought to be the “boisterous leader” for a veteran Centennial team featuring 12 seniors.

“Ginger was always telling to me to make everyone better around me but I couldn’t do it without my teammates and I am super grateful for them,” said Harper, who is committed to the Gophers.

A transfer from North Branch before her sophomore season, Harper did in three seasons what few longer-tenured Centennial players have done. She leaves with the second-highest number of career goals (75) and points (121).

And she benefited from lessons beyond the record books.

“Ginger built my character,” Harper said. “She kept me on track.”

Past girls' Metro Players of the Year

2019: Sophia Boman, Edina

2018: Megan Plaschko, Eagan

2017: Meredith Haakenson, Maple Grove

2016: Morgan Turner, Wayzata

2015: Hannah Cade, Lakeville North

2014: April Bockin, Eden Prairie

2013: Elizabeth Endy, Minnetonka

2012: Jenna Roering, Centennial

2011: Simone Kolander, Lakeville North

2010: Taylor Uhl, Eden Prairie

2009: Kassie Kallman, Woodbury

2008: Allie Phillips, Mounds View

2007: Krista Lundgren, Lakeville South

2006: Julie Rezac, Eden Prairie

2005: Dana Tripp, White Bear Lake

2004: Elena Fruci, Mahtomedi

2003: Kelsey Hans, Lakeville

2002: Katherine Krambeer, Osseo

2001: Caroline Smith, Edina

2000: Rachel Gilfillan, Woodbury

1999: Amanda McMahon, Stillwater

1998: Megan Almonzo, Armstrong

1997: Jena Kluegel, Mahtomedi

1996: Jena Kluegel, Mahtomedi

1995: Sarah Blaska, Anoka

1994: Mara Miller, Stillwater

1993: Jennifer McElmury, White Bear Lake

1992: Jennifer Walek, North St. Paul

1991: Gretchen Brandt, Mounds View

1990: Shannan Scibilia, Park of Cottage Grove

1989: Janet Newinski, Burnsville

1988: Lisa Mickelson, North St. Paul

1987: Nicole Johnson, Rosemount;

         Kari Maijala, Bloomington Jefferson

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