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Team-first mentality for MHS girls soccer

Mitchell's Kyah Escobin, left, and Pierre's Morgan Magdanz, right, go for the ball during a high school girls soccer match on Sept. 12, 2017 at the Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex. (Republic File Photo)

It’s all about helping the squad for the Mitchell High School girls soccer team.

Second-year head coach Bob Lemon’s lessons on team chemistry have rubbed off on his team, which went 4-8-1 last season. The Kernels start their season at the Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Douglas.

“We need the team to stick together this year,” said Seemela Novak, a junior defensive-midfielder. “... We’ve focused a lot on team chemistry, getting to know each other and hanging out to get to know each other and to understand what each person’s personal goals and strengths are.”

Novak, an All-Eastern South Dakota Conference player in 2016, will try to replace some of the production lost from Morgan Kempf, Mitchell’s only all-conference player in 2017. Kempf is out for the season after she chipped a bone in her knee at the end of last year.

“I think Seemela’s big challenge will be consistency from game-to-game,” Lemon said. “We’ve seen it in practice -- she’s committed to working hard. She has every potential to be not only an all-conference but an all-state (player) if she can play her game and allow herself to be challenged.”

Novak is one of four returning upperclassmen on a team that mostly consists of sophomores and seventh graders. While that could mean a bright future for the Kernels, it could also mean offensive troubles this year.

“Our key is can we put the ball in the back of the net,” Lemon said. “I think we struggled at times being consistent finishing and giving ourselves opportunities. We break down in the last third and don’t get a really high-quality shot.”

Novak, Marianna Novak and Sam Gerlach are players Lemon envisions stepping up offensively this season.

Lemon also hopes the new 4-2-3-1 formation he plans to implement on Saturday will help evenly distribute players on the field and lead to more scoring opportunities. The Kernels have made passing a focal point to create better scoring chances, as well.

Along with a new formation, the Kernels will have a new home as they’ll move to Joe Quintal Field once it’s finished.  

“It’s going to be different playing on the turf, we know that,” Lemon said. “It’ll probably be springy, the balls are going to run fast. That’s going to probably be the big difference, working on keeping on balls down instead of keeping them in the air because it will get there really fast on the turf.”

However, on Saturday, Lemon hopes a hard summer’s work will pay off. Most of the team played club soccer all summer in hopes of improving on last year.

“Our goal is to make it farther than last year,” Seemela Novak said. “Just to show Mitchell we’re a team and we can play. We want people to come out to watch and see us.”