Q and A: Carpentier expects depth to be a strength
Last year's team finished 8-8-1 with several close losses. In what areas does the team need to improve the most to get over the top and become an elite team?
Well, you said it yourself: we lost a lot of close games. Of the eight losses, six were by one goal and a seventh was in OT to the, at the time, No. 2 team in the state. That was with a lineup dominated by underclassmen. We have to learn to win those games, and I truly believe that by the end of the season we had learned what it took to get to that level. Generally it comes down to intensity and what we as a staff bring to practice -- remember, I have been used to teams that had a high number of seniors and last year we didn't -- to ensure the girls stay intense, and what the girls themselves do individually and as a group to reach their goals.
Up front, you lose some speedsters in Alyssa Parco and Ashley Kimmell. Who are some of the players you expect to make contributions at the forward spots?
Things will look quite a bit different this season as there is clearly more team speed across the board than at any time since I've been the coach. (Izzie) Ferm and (Kelli) Elmer are two of the fastest players in the state and (Kali) Allard is very close to them in terms of speed. There are several underclassmen who I would expect to make a real push for varsity minutes and they are very fast, as well.
In terms of positioning, we will be moving people around because we have a bit of depth at the forward and defensive positions, and even in the center of the field, but we are looking for some people to step up at the wing positions. We clearly have talent to put in those spots and the competition for playing time on the wings and across the team in general should be pretty intense.
We struggled in terms of finishing last season and we are hoping to rectify that problem immediately. If the summer is any indication (both in voluntary team practices and traveling club games) then we shouldn't have as much of a problem scoring. Further, we've added former boys assistant Robb Virgin to the staff to help us with finishing in the final third of the field. Robb was a fantastic player in his own right, and he's great with the girls. His technical expertise is outstanding and the fact that he is new will keep what we as a staff present to the girls from getting stale.
Ferm and Elmer were all-conference performers last year at midfielder and defender, respectively. You expect the team's defensive depth to allow you to move them around?
Izzie played most of the season in the midfield and also has the ability to be a lockdown defender. Elmer was a lockdown defender last season and she may continue in that role. In all honesty, with those two and Leah Zak anchoring the back line, plus Becker in goal, we will be very, very hard to score upon.... That is, if both Ferm and Elmer remain at the back. I have a great deal of confidence in the girls that make up the depth of the defensive corps, so much so that we are already experimenting using Ferm and Elmer elsewhere. The thing about both Izzie and Kelli is that they are both incredibly athletic and bring an absolute bulldog mentality to the field. Both have also improved their ball skills to the point where they both should be recruited to play at the next level.
And there's plenty of depth at the midfield position, as well?
We could legitimately be two-deep at every position. As I said, we are looking at moving some people around to give our wings an attacking threat, but there are some younger girls who should step up both on the outside and in terms of anchoring the middle. Rising sophs Sarah Zak and Megan Graham have looked great in practice. Rising soph Emily Johnson brings the same kind of mentality to the field that Ferm and Elmer have. Rising seniors Tina Oppedisano and Kaylie Sorenson (who was out all of last year with a torn ACL) know what we expect of our center mids and really do a nice job. We even have some rising eighth graders who are clearly talented enough to play on the varsity and certainly will at least push the older girls to a higher degree of competitiveness and intensity.
After all-conference goalkeeper Taylor Meyer was lost for the season with a leg injury, you brought in a couple of newcomers that shared time in goal. What is your outlook at the position this season?
Then-junior Sydney Eckert and then-frosh Ashley Becker both played basically the same amount of games/time last year, but Syd clearly had more time at the beginning of the year, whereas Ashley really began to establish herself at the end of the year. Ashley is pretty clearly the returning starter heading into the season, but we have a minimum of six keepers in the program this year without adding Syd to the list and several of them are very strong. Rising junior Marissa Muelken is very solid and will be looking to supplant Ashley as the No. 1. The keeper position is in very good hands, no pun intended.
Have the lower teams had some success in the last couple years? Are you expecting a wealth of potential contributors from those squad?
I already mentioned Johnson, Zak and Graham, and there are quite a few more. Rising junior Rachel Welzin is really pushing to be noticed at the forward spot. There are so many underclassmen with talent and desire that they are almost too numerous to name, and I hate simply pointing out one or two because there really are many that are legitimately varsity-level players. Our freshmen team won the Missota crown while both our B Squad and JV had very high winning percentages. Our B Squad may have also won their Missota title, but even if they didn't, they were certainly in second place.
What are your goals and expectations for this year's team?
I have been bitten in the behind in the past by making predictions, so I am not going to make any for the team. I simply hope we continually work hard, have a great deal of fun and stay injury-free. The rest will take care of itself.
In terms of goals, I think the girls have some reasonable expectations. They know the quality of both our conference and our section. They are shooting for their first Missota title and a spot in the section title game. The first may be easier to achieve as we have had conference success in the past, but the second remains a huge mystery. Remember, this program has yet to win a single playoff game in its history. However, the girls are hungry and, perhaps more importantly, they know that they will be as deep and as talented as any team on our schedule. The key is to put it all together. We all know that games aren't won in preseason predictions or on paper; the girls have to put it all together on the field. We are all very, very excited for this season.