When Chanhassen was stout defensively in 2020, the Storm had the ability to play with anyone on their schedule, including a victory over Eden Prairie in the post-season.
In 13 games last season, Chanhassen posted seven shutouts and had a total of 10 games where they allowed one or fewer tallies, posting a 9-3-1 record.
With center backs Elisabeth Gerebi and Mollie Puffett and goaltender Jessie Maus returning, Chanhassen has the same defensive mentality for 2021.
"We always expect to compete for the conference title and this year is no different. We had a great run last year. The 2021 team is excited to build on that success," Chanhassen girls soccer head coach Katie Clark said.
While the Storm were keeping the ball out of their net, they also had the ability to put the ball in the other team's net, scoring 29 goals to 11 allowed.
Chanhassen will look to strikers Kennedy Beld (six goals in 2020) and Haley Von Rentzell (four goals, two assists) with midfielder Grace Fogarty the facilitator (goal, seven assists).
Hudson Stier, Edie Hammond, Kaia Burroughs, and Grace Reichert are other returning varsity members to the line-up.
"With a couple of new schools joining the Metro West, we expect strong competition at the conference level. We are excited to play Waconia and Orono especially as they come with experience of making the Class A State Tournaments in recent years," Clark said.
Chanhassen opens the season at Eastview at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26. Because the Lightning's new turf stadium is not ready, the game will be played at the Johnny Cake Ridge Stadium just east of the high school on natural grass.
The Storm are also at Holy Family Catholic at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28, with the home opener on Tuesday, Aug. 30, versus St. Louis Park in a boy/girl doubleheader at 5 and 7 p.m.
ACCOUNTABILITY, DISCIPLINE, RESPECT
Chanhassen boys soccer scored five total goals, and won two games in 2019. So when the Storm scored six times in the opening three matches, posting a 2-0-1 record, progress was shown.
Coming off a four win and three tie season in 2020, Chanhassen will look to take the next step with a balance of seniors and underclassmen.
"There is a good team spirit this year. From our team meeting, we agreed on the following core value we will focus as a team -- accountability for match performance and personal fitness, discipline and sticking to the plan, and good sportsmanship with opposition and officials," Chanhassen head coach Kevin Manton said.
Manton looks to seniors Timmy Klein and Mason Drazan, captains, as well as Aaron Dodge, Isaac Cameron, Liam Van Asten, and goaltender Caden Carlson for leadership.
Junior captain Colten Kaucher is an exciting varsity newcomer, while Manton expects junior Konner Gunwall and sophomore Harrison Ashwell to make an impact early on as well.
As for season goals, Manton said first and foremost, "we will hopefully stay healthy and fit, enjoying and embracing every moment the season offers," he said.
Chanhassen also looks to improve on its 2020 Metro West Conference fifth-place finish -- something that will be an even greater challenge with the addition of Orono, Waconia and New Prague -- and win the program's first section game since a championship appearance in 2017.
TOP HITTERS RETURN
Returning the team's top two hitters, a setter and a defensive row standout, Chanhassen is set to begin the 2021 volleyball season in a good spot -- in August, versus a shortened 2020 season that began in October.
"We have a squad of 13, so one of our goals is to work well as a team, being competitive at practices and supportive of each other," Chanhassen head coach Teryn Glenn said.
Senior outside hitter Mary Cate Ziembec, a third-year varsity member, led the Storm in hitting with 205 kills in 2020. She did a little bit of everything for Chanhassen, finishing with 112 digs, 22 aces and 294 service receptions.
Senior Ellie Smith hit at a 33 percent good clip, totaling 157 kills from the outside and right side at the net.
Setter Ashlyn Steding, team leader with 255 assists in 14 matches, will lead the Storm offense, while senior Chloe Rogers, a third-year varsity member, will occupy the libero position on defense. Rogers had 79 digs, 20 aces and 175 service receptions in 2020.
Chanhassen, which opens the season at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 26, against Shakopee, will also play in the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28 against Burnsville at Hopkins High School.
"Another goal is to work on our mindset and believe that we can beat any team we come across. We have good players, and we can compete. We'd love to see a conference championship again this season!" Glenn said.