Chan Soccer - Armstrong

Lillian Armstrong stops Prior Lake's Katie Trachsel in her tracks, not allowing the Laker attacker to move forward in a Section 2AA playoff win for Chanhassen in 2018.

Year in and year out, Chanhassen is right there with the top teams in Section 2AA, reaching the championship match in 2016.

While the last members of that section runner-up team graduated in the spring, a new group of Storm players are ready to step up to the challenge.

Half of the current varsity team won a U15 state title with CC United in 2018. Hard work allowed the group to move up in club status. Chanhassen coach Katie Clark expects to see that kind of drive this fall from the Storm.

"Our goals are to improve every session, practice or game! We have some difficult games early, but we are looking forward to the challenge and figuring out who we are along the way. By the end of the season, we hope to be conference champions and be hitting our peak rolling into sections," she said.

Outside of matches with Richfield and Robbinsdale Cooper, every regular season match in 2018 was decided by one or fewer goals. Chanhassen played eventual state champion Minnetonka to a 2-1 loss early on.

The Storm defeated Metro West Conference champions Benilde-St. Margaret, but three draws and a heartbreaking loss to Chaska cost Chanhassen the league title.

Seven players remain from the section semifinalist squad including senior defenseman Lillian Armstrong and junior forward Colleen Westerhaus, the team's leading scorer before she was lost to a knee injury on a play in which she scored the lone goal in a playoff win over Prior Lake.

"Lillie will anchor the backline again this season. Her speed, timing and communication is exceptional and it will be imperative to our success this season," Clark said.

"Colleen looks fit and ready to score more of those gritty goals. She is amongst the hardest workers I’ve coached and we are looking forward to her leadership on and off the field," the coach added.

A transfer from Shakopee, Kennedy Beld, is another impact on the pitch for the Storm.

"She possesses great foot skills and already is combining well with others on the field. She has the ability to hold up play, as well as take it to goal," Clark said.

Chanhassen is strongest in the center of the field with great competition for playing time right now.

"Almost half the varsity team would be comfortable there, so we have a lot of options and will be able to match up with teams well. The competition within the team for minutes will be huge for the development of the players. Haley Von Rentzell, Leah Naples, Edie Hammond, Riley Lyons, and Grace Fogarty all will see a lot of time of the field this fall," the coach said.

Chanhassen, which opens Thursday, Aug. 22 at 5 p.m. at Lakeville North,  is setting the tone for the season right now. There's no need to wait until the games start.

"We are simply able to give players time to adjust to the new environment and see who thrives with the pressure and pace of play. Practices for sure have been more intense and more competitive than in years past. This is a humble, hardworking group that all have committed to make each other better by giving 100 percent at practices," Clark said. "I am very excited to work with this group as I can see how hard they are willing to work to achieve success."

Chanhassen's first home match is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24 against Edina.

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