Defensive Dragons

Maple Grove Looks To Repeat Without Crossley, Kibbe Among Others

The Maple Grove Red Dragons will look to defend their Section VI Class C championship without all-time leading scorer Clare Crossley, who graduated this past summer. P-J photo by Matt Spielman

Adri Carlson and Clare Crossley combined for 199 goals during their illustrious careers for the Maple Grove girls soccer program.

The star tandem helped the Red Dragons win a pair of Section VI Class C championships and at one point win an astonishing 37 straight games.

They are gone now and Maple Grove will look to continue its tradition of excellence without them.

Head coach Mike Burr is up to the challenge.

The Red Dragons and all of the area’s high school teams returned to practice this week and most of them share the same goal: winning a sectional crown.

Sydney Greiner, left, and Ana Pavlock pass to each other during a drill Wednesday morning at Maple Grove’s practice. P-J photo by Matt Spielman

For some programs that can seem like a pipe dream. Not Maple Grove.

In Burr’s 14 seasons as the girls soccer coach on Dutch Hollow Road, his teams have won seven titles, including two in the past three years.

Crossley scored 100 goals and dished out 65 assists during her time on the pitch, finishing as the leading scorer in Red Dragons’ history. Carlson was just behind with 99 goals and 46 assists.

“When you graduate as many seniors and strong players that have been on my team for four-plus years, some five and some six, it always takes away a little bit,” Burr said during Maple Grove’s practice Wednesday morning.

“I’ve been in these shoes before. … It’s why I play so many players in games and bring them along. Now it’s their time to shine and their time to step up as leaders.”

Maple Grove sophomore goalkeeper Kasie Craig makes a save during practice Wednesday morning on Dutch Hollow Road. P-J photo by Matt Spielman

Graduating with Crossley last season was Chloe Kibbe, who scored 14 goals and had 14 assists. Senior captains Sammy Davis and Morgan Plymel were joined by Sarah Berg, Marisa Schuppenhauer and Hailey Blair playing for a Far West Regional title against Wheatland-Chili and Webster-Thomas High School last November.

“We had the lead and couldn’t hold it. We had some unfortunate bounces. … It’s never hard to lose to such a quality team,” Burr said. “They deserved to win that game because they played better, especially in the second half.”

The Red Dragons led 2-0 early in that game, before falling 3-2 to the Wildcats.

“I really thought the way we started that game, we were just going to roll. … It was just two or three breakdowns. … We had a plan and we didn’t necessarily execute the plan the way I hoped we would have. … It’s unfortunate that those breakdowns all cost us goals.”

But Burr remains upbeat, mainly due to this year’s returning seniors Addie Tanner, Ana Pavlock, Sydney Greiner, Lauren Grissom and Lily Baer.

Maple Grove sophomore Megan Baer takes a shot Wednesday morning. P-J photo by Matt Spielman

“They kind of are leaders by committee, they complement each other well. Even the seniors, there are a couple that aren’t captains who are very strong vocally,” Burr said. “Some of the best leaders I’ve had weren’t captains. They need to lead by example and be encouraging. They bring a nice balance and order to the team.”

Juniors Taylor Bower and Britta Johnson will also serve as captains for Burr, who will benefit from sophomore Kasie Craig playing her second season between the pipes.

“I couldn’t be happier with Kasie. She has to continue to work hard. She has an enormous amount of potential. She’s a very good goalie who has the potential to be a great goalie,” Burr said. “She’s still young, she’s only a sophomore. … She’s going to hopefully keep getting better day after day. With the right work ethic, she could be an amazing goaltender.”

Pavlock and Greiner are the top returning goal scorers with five apiece. Bower and sophomore Jacquie Nickerson each scored twice while Johnson, Ireland Hagglund, Baer, Alex Daniels, Craig and Tanner each scored once.

“I’m not sure where the goals are going to (come from). A couple of years ago you knew it was going to be Adri and Clare. Last year you knew it was going to be Clare and Chloe. This year it could come from anyone,” Burr said. “We are going to probably be very balanced. That to me is a much harder team to defend. … It’s more going to be a system goal scoring and not an individual goal scoring.”

With players who accounted for just 20 of the 74 goals scored last season back this year, Burr and the Red Dragons may have to depend on their defense more than in the past. Craig allowed just eight goals and will be helped by Johnson, Baer, Grissom, Tanner and Nickerson, who are all listed as defenders or midfielders on the current roster.

“Defensively, we’ll be strong,” Burr said. “At goalkeeper we’re strong.”

Bower, Daniels, Greiner, Pavlock and sophomore Megan Baer will be looked to as primary scorers, but Burr admits goals could come from anywhere on the roster, which should serve as a benefit when opposing teams can’t key on one or two players like they did in the past with Carlson and Crossley.

“Megan Baer is small, but she has a lot of talent,” Burr said. “I look forward to Alex (Daniels), who was a freshman last year.”

Regardless of who scores, it’s almost a guarantee the Red Dragons will do it.

And Burr’s track record shows they will likely be doing it during meaningful games in late October or early November.

“They are getting better every single day and that’s my main goal,” Burr said. “I always want to win sectionals. Sometimes it’s in the cards and sometimes it’s not. At this point I’m looking at how we can be competitive and how we can limit the mistakes. We should be in every single game.”


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