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Raiders soccer team hopes to open season

Eight seniors will lead this year's Raider girls' soccer team, which hopes to open the season this weekend at the D.C. Everest Tournament in Schofield. From left are, co-captain Nicole Mara, team manager Britta VanGuilder, Hannah Wirth, Sadie Gray, Mariah Fier, Lauren Lingenfelter, Solvei Stenso-Velo, and co-captain Kristin Sobottka. Bob Burrows photo

Senior co-captains Nicole Mara and Kristin Sobottka said it's been tough on the Raider girls' soccer team being stuck inside for three straight weeks.

"It's brutal playing in here," Mara said before practice last Thursday in the E.P. Rock Elementary School gym. "There's not a lot of room and the ball moves a lot faster."

Sobottka was even firmer in her assessment.

"You have to watch what you're doing in here," she said. "You want to go as hard as you can, but then you might run into a wall - literally -- a concrete wall!"

So far this season the Raiders have had three games either cancelled or postponed. Last week's scheduled openers at Wausau West and Hayward were both canceled while this Thursday's Big Rivers Conference opener at Menomonie has been rescheduled for May 20.

Despite not being able to practice outside, the Raiders are hoping to finally get some games in this Friday and Saturday, April 12 and 13 at the D.C. Everest Tournament in Schofield.

"The girls are getting antsy to get outside, and it is frustrating as a coach to try to make game-like scenarios happen in a gym," head coach Allie Knutson said. "Overall though, the girls have kept a positive attitude and are working really hard. They have the right mind-set, despite not being on grass yet."

Last year's Raiders finished with a record of 7-6-1 overall, 5-5-1 and in fourth place in the BRC. Hudson returns All-BRC defender Hannah Wirth but Knutson said there is plenty of competition to replace the loss of four other All-BRC players to graduation.

"There is definitely competition to earn a spot as one of the starting 11 this season," Knutson said. "It will likely be something that changes a bit from game to game throughout the season. We have some depth on the roster too, so some very good players will be coming off the bench."

Knutson said Hudson will rely heavily on the senior leadership of co-captains Mara and Sobottka.

"I am very confident in their ability to lead with their play, and beyond that, to set the tone for the team in terms of how we play, and exhibiting 'The Raider Way,'" she said.

The Raider Way is the theme the team has adopted this season and includes the words: Inspiration, Dedication, Determination, Respect, Vitality.

"The captains and coaches really think these words embody what it means to be a Hudson High School women's soccer player," Knutson said. "They are within everything we do, and our hope is this will be apparent to those who watch us play."

In addition to Mara and Sobottka, Knutson said she expects Wirth and sophomore Maggie Koehler to play key roles again this season.

"Hannah in a more defensive role, and Maggie in the attack," she said. "There are many other returning varsity players who I expect will step into leadership roles this season. Then we do have a fairly large group of new players that have played a lot of soccer; they will play a pivotal role in our success."

For now, Knutson and the rest of the team keep plugging away and thinking warm thoughts.

"So far things have been going very well," the coach said. "The girls are all enthusiastic and ready to get outside and get started."

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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