Andres Rivas couldn't help but smile thinking about his role of captain of the Minnetonka boys soccer team, a position his older brother, Sergio, held the last two seasons.
"It's a great honor. He was a great player. Even though he didn't talk that much, but the way he played on the field, it uplifted everyone. I try to model myself around him," Andres said of Sergio.
For a Minnetonka team coming off a third-place finish at state, modeling themselves on what worked last year -- strong defense, a total of seven goals allowed in the regular season -- is a smart play.
Defense first, offense will come.
"We're always looking for shutouts. We have me and Andres returning at defense, along with Cullen (Doyle) and Jake (Herbert), a sophomore that's been showing for us. ... That's what we really focus on. Playing defense before offense," Minnetonka senior captain Niko Scheibal said.
The Skippers opened the season with a dominating 3-0 win over Chaska on Aug. 22. Shots were 7-1 in favor of Minnetonka.
Junior Dylan Olson, a returning attack, scored twice, with Scheibal scoring on a diving header, a specialty of his.
"Lots of head injuries," said Scheibal of his heading ability. "Started off with head gear, I head to wear a big headband from my freshman to sophomore year. A lot of practice. I like being the target."
Likely among the top 10 teams in the state of Minnesota, a front-runner in the Lake Conference, the target will be on Minnetonka all season.
Next up for the Skippers and senior goaltender Marcus Knowles, who made one save in the shutout, is a 3 p.m. match on Saturday, Aug. 24 against Minnespolis Southwest.
Outside hitter Skyler Germann was electric when she touched the ball in 2018, finishing with 277 kills, 44 ace serves and 276 digs.
Middle hitter Kali Engeman added an even 100 kills and 62 blocking points, while Macy Osenga as a freshman had 28 ace serves.
For Minnetonka, Section 2AAA runner-up last fall, let's start with that. In total, five players return to the court off a 24-win season.
The Skippers opened the season with a 3-0 victory in a Lake Conference match at Buffalo Aug. 22, a 25-12, 25-23, 25-16 decision.
Minnetonka is the defending league champions.
Abby Stanwood and Engeman had 14 and 10 kills with Germann, Stanwood and Sarah Stolar with two aces each.
Isabella Milacnik and Olivia Koeppen finished with 15 and 13 set assists for the Skippers.
The Skippers, ranked No. 12 in the pre-season poll, takes on No. 2 Stillwater in the Breakdown Side Out Classic at Edina High School at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24.
GIRLS SOCCER PREVIEW
Minnetonka was never the best team in state, until they were.
The defending Class AA state champions return nine rotational players including back line multi-year starters Kayla Mahabadi and Emilia Johnson and goaltender Emily Graupmann.
Minnetonka graduated four starters from a 2018 squad that upset Eagan in a shootout in the state semifinals and then stole the championship from a Wayzata team that dominated them in the regular season.
Graupmann shared duties in net last season after starting a majority of her sophomore season. Mahabadi and Johnson have been on the varsity field since their freshman years.
Seniors Sophia Montague and Jess Kollodge and junior Lissa Mizutani, who moves up in the formation from defense, will lead the offense along with a healthy Cat Moore in the midfield.
Jelena Zbiljic, who scored the game-winner in overtime to beat Eden Prairie in the Section 2AA final, converts to defense in her senior season.
Other returners are seniors Chloe Loberg and Emme Lindberg and junior Marli Bertagnoli.
Minnetonka opens the season at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24 against Farmington at Einer Anderson Stadium.