Thursday's season opener will go down as a loss, but for the Chaska girls soccer team, the positives to come out of the first 80 minutes extend beyond the result.
Facing a Minnetonka squad that reached the state tournament in 2016, on the Skippers home turf, against a back line with three returning starters and a seasoned goaltender, Chaska made its opponent earn the 1-0 win.
Anna Erickson's first-half tally from Annika Muller was the lone goal of the contest for the Skippers.
Back and forth in momentum in the second half, Chaska nearly tied it as a cross from Marie Walsh to Lilly Halvorson caromed just wide off her foot.
The play of Walsh on the right side midfield and Payton Schultz in an attacking role over the final 40 minutes was among the positives for the Hawks.
The performance of goaltender Grace Northamer also was key, keeping Chaska in the game early on in the second half as the Skippers pressured for a second goal.
Minnetonka, with eight starters back from a season ago, ranked in the top-10 pre-season poll in Class AA, just missed connecting in the second half, a sign of a season opener.
Defensively, though, outside of the one solid Chaska chance, the experienced back row of Emilia Johnson, Kayla Mahabadi and Mari Ferrer-Lugo in front of goaltenders Paige Kahlmeyer and Ally Cyr were stout.
Chaska was credited with just three shots on net in the contest.
Minnetonka (1-0) hosts Farmington at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with Chaska (1-0) at Holy Family Catholic at 1 p.m. Saturday.
A handful of Chaska underclassmen made their varsity debuts including freshman Lily Esping and Sammie Ramboldt, while sophomore Alex Peterson also saw extensive action.
Esping follows in the footsteps of older brother, Sam, a four-year varsity starter for the boys team, graduating in 2017. Peterson is the third member of her family to play for Chaska (Nicolette, Anneliese).
It's the fresh legs combined with 12 returning varsity members that has Chaska looking at its best season in a few years.
"This absolutely helps take Chaska to the next step because we have players with experience and new players who bring new elements to the team. The core group of girls have been showing the younger girls the ropes and we've all already become a close group of girls," Walsh said.
"By having a lot of returning players it's made it very easy to pick up right where we left off last year with strong team chemistry and a determination to win. I hope by the end of the season we can all look back and remember this as one of our favorite years of soccer," senior defenseman Lizzy Neubauer said.
BOYS SOCCER: Minnetonka 4, Chaska 1
A hustle play had Chaska in a surprise 1-1 game at halftime Thursday in the season opener at pre-season top-10 Minnetonka.
The Skippers, with seven varsity regulars back, put on extra pressure early in the second half, scoring three times in a 4-1 win.
Chaska, with only a handful or so players returning that started during the 2016 season, was without senior captain Ben Urbanciz on defense.
Noah Chung opened the scoring for Minnetonka in the 10th minute, getting behind the Hawk defense for the first goal of the year.
Dominated in stretches over the first 40 minutes, Chaska evened the game on Noah Cvetnic's first career tally. Cvetnic kept his feet as a Minnetonka defenseman and goaltender collided outside the box, the ball trickling toward the open net for the easy score.
Minnetonka turned up the heat early in the second half, Adrian Perkins twice scoring, the eventual winner on a cross from Max Honebrink.
Alejandro Ferrer-Lugo, who added a fourth goal for the Skippers, assisted on Perkins' second tally. Sergio Rivas also had an assist for Minnetonka.
Junior Eddie Munoz made his first start for Chaska in nets, making two key saves in the first half to keep the Hawks in the game. He had nine saves for the match.
Chaska (0-1) is at Holy Family Catholic at 11 a.m. Saturday with Minnetonka (1-0) hosting Minneapolis Southwest at 6 p.m. Saturday.