Mustang girls enter '19 with state title aspirations
Expectations are clearly defined for the West Fargo Sheyenne girls soccer team this season.
Having reached the state tournament in back-to-back seasons, including a runner-up finish in 2018, Mustang players feel they are in great position to take the next step this season.
What is that next step, exactly?
"Undefeated," senior goalie Shelby Weber said. "That's a goal. That's a big goal."
Despite a few losses, the biggest being 2018 Senior Athlete of the Year Madison Urlaub, Sheyenne has enough experience returning to support such lofty aspirations.
Of the Mustangs' seven returning seniors, five will continue their soccer careers at the college level. Brooke Boyer is expected to lead the charge offensively, alongside fellow senior forwards Hayley Rindahl and Tianna Daniels, and midfielder Yasmina Dokara.
The offense is also expected to get some second-unit pop from freshmen Shayla Condley, Blayke Hurley and Mya Bjugstad, who have shown flashes in early season practices.
While the defense isn't quite as deep, the Mustangs still have some strong leadership on the back end, with returning seniors Weber and defenseman Jalyn Bauer.
On the outside, it may appear the biggest question mark facing Sheyenne is on the bench, where first-year head coach Jon Melendez takes over following the resignation of Paul Grendzinski.
But Melendez, who is also the coach of the Sheyenne boys team, isn't coming into the situation cold, after serving as a Mustang assistant last spring. Having already developed relationships with his players, he says no one has missed a beat in early season practices.
"We all know each other, we know how we all communicate," Melendez said. "It's been easy. I know the goals we have for the season."
One thing that won't be easy is achieving the ultimate goal of winning a state title. After producing the top-four state finishers a season ago, a restocked EDC will provide plenty of obstacles for the Mustangs.
Atop the pecking order is two-time defending state champion Fargo Davies, which beat Sheyenne 4-1 in last season's title game.
Aside from fellow state qualifiers Shanley and Fargo North, Melendez also expects to face serious competition from emerging "powerhouses" Fargo South and West Fargo.
"Every game is a must-win," he said. "That's the mentality we have to take every time."
That sense of urgency is shared by Melendez's players, who say they intend to be in attack mode throughout a season they hope ends with them hoisting a trophy in Jamestown in early June.
"We have a few set standards for our team," Boyer said. "And one of them (is) to work towards that state championship title. That's definitely one of our expectations. Every single game we have is gearing us up for that."
The Mustangs opened the season at Fargo South Tuesday. They are scheduled to host Davies in a state championship rematch in West Fargo at 7 p.m. Thursday.