PREP GIRLS SOCCER: First season brings success, optimism for Marshall girls soccer program

Independent file photo Members of the Marshall girls soccer team pose for a photo after playing against New Ulm on Aug. 25. The Tigers tied the Eagles 0-0 in the first game in program history.

MARSHALL – August 25 was an important day for Marshall athletics. That Friday marked the first time the Tigers girls soccer team took the field, as the program kicked off a new era for Marshall.

Despite coming away with a tie against the Eagles in the opener, the game showed promise for the young Marshall group.

Tigers head coach Jesus Hernandez said one of their biggest goals at the beginning of the season was getting their players used to competing at a high school level, with many of the members playing in youth competition.

“One of our biggest goals was how to transition our players from youth or summer competition to the high school level,” coach Hernandez said. “We worked hard both physically and mentally to understand that. It was one of our biggest challenges, but also one of our biggest accomplishments by the end of the year.”

The Tigers then earned their first win of the season in a 3-0 victory over St. Peter on Aug. 28. Marshall continued to improve over the course of the season, finishing with a 6-3-1 record.

Coach Hernandez said he was proud of the way his team worked together and connected with each other on the field throughout the hardships of a first season.

“Assistant coach Shayna Smith and I wanted to set up a mentality of teamwork for us at the start of the season. We might not be the fastest team and we might be young, but we had some of the best teamwork out there,” coach Hernandez said. “Our big focus was to help each other and connect with each other on the field with communication.”

With just one senior on their team this season in Meimelinda Lopez, the Tigers were forced to rely on multiple young players. Marshall was led by sophomores Lenei Estrada, Genesis Hernandez and Raini Grams as well as freshmen Natasha Ross and Clarissa Flores, and eighth graders Danya Estrada and Allyson Quist.

Coach Hernandez said their key on the offensive end was raising their level of confidence as the season progressed.

“The first couple of games we couldn’t score, which was a little frustrating. We had opportunities to score but couldn’t finish at the net,” coach Hernandez said. “We worked on it in practice, and in the third game the goals came and we had confidence in front of the net. It helped us turn around on offense.”

Marshall also saw a lot of success on the defensive end, as they earned multiple shutouts over their opponents during the season. Coach Hernandez said after they took an early loss to Waseca, they wanted to make a change and learn from their mistakes.

“We took a 5-0 loss to Waseca in the beginning of the year. After that loss, it made us think what we did wrong,” coach Hernandez said. “We wanted to be more aware and anticipate where the ball was going and try and go for it first. That turned us around and then the shutouts came after and helped our confidence on defense.”

Next season the Tigers will be playing on the varsity level for the first time. Coach Hernandez said with one season under their belt, he’s hoping their team will be ready for the physicality of varsity soccer and that they need to work on keeping up with the fast pace of the game next season.

“We’re playing at the varsity level next year, which means it will be more physical than JV,” coach Hernandez said. “We need to work on being physical and work on our speed against some of the bigger teams. We also need to be stronger and be ready for competing at a higher level next season.”