The Burnsville girls soccer team will have to find some additional scoring punch this fall.
The Blaze graduated eight seniors from last year's squad that finished 8-9-1 overall (2-6-1 in the South Suburban Conference). It was only the second losing season for Burnsville under coach John Soderholm in the last 10 years. The team also finished 8-9-1 in 2016.
One of those graduating seniors last year was Maya Hansen, who scored 25 goals and added five assists. She was a two-time all-state selection by the Minnesota State High School Soccer Coaches Association and is now playing Division I at South Dakota State University.
How will Burnsville replace Hansen's scoring talents? It will have to be a team effort, and some younger players will need to step up.
"We have less seniors than usual, but the ones we have are excellent leaders and have a great work ethic," Soderholm said.
Burnsville's captains are seniors Makayla Haddorff, Carly Dahl and Grace Kauffmann. Haddorff led the team in assists last year with nine.
Junior Grace Milhaupt will be back on defense for the Blaze along with sophomore Zoie Dundon.
Abby Sodlerholm has also joined the coaching staff. She was a former standout midfielder for Burnsville.
Section 3AA has been one of the toughest sections in the state over the last five years. Eagan has led the way. The Wildcats have won three of the last five state championships and four of the last five Section 3AA crowns.
Burnsville has had a rough time against Eagan over the years, including a 5-0 loss to the Wildcats in the section semifinals last year. The Blaze has lost in the section semifinals the last three seasons.
Eagan is 9-0-1 against Burnsville since the start of the 2012 season. Two of those wins have come in the Section 3AA title game; Eagan was 2-1 in 2014 and 4-0 in 2015.
Burnsville's last section crown came in 2013, when it finished third at state.
"The SSC is an extremely strong conference, and we will need to be at top of our ability every game as there is little room for error with the conference teams," Soderholm said.
Eagan won the SSC last year with 7-0-2 mark, followed by Rosemount (6-2-1), Lakeville North (6-2-1) and Lakeville South (5-2-2). Rosemount is also a section team, winning the 3AA crown in 2016.
The Blaze openss the season Aug. 21 at home versus Simley at 7 p.m. Burnsville is also home to Rochester John Marshall today at 3 p.m.
Burnsville has three more non-league games before starting the SSC season. They are at Minneapolis South Aug. 27, versus St. Francis Aug. 28 and at Minneapolis Southwest Sept. 3.
The Blaze's SSC opener is Sept. 5 at Lakeville North at 5 p.m.