A trio of captains, seniors AJ Brock and Amelia Carlson and junior Ella Gilbertson, will lead the St. Peter Saints girls soccer team this season.
For Brock, who also competes in track and field, this is the eighth year participating in soccer. She started playing because Carlson told her to join the traveling team when the two were in the fourth grade. Eight years later, she doesn’t regret heeding her friend’s advice.
“I love how soccer makes me feel like nothing else in the world matters, and it makes me happy knowing I get to play this sport with my best friends,” Brock said.
Even though it means not seeing her name on the scoring sheet, she likes being a defender.
“I love playing defense because one of my coaches once said that ‘forwards make the highlights, but defense wins championships,’ so every time we win a game, I feel like an important aspect even though I didn’t score any of the goals,” she said.
She likes being the field general as well.
“I also love being able to see the whole field and direct the play,” she explained. “Defense is challenging when there are so many girls on the other team’s attack that have to be marked up.”
In this, her last season in a Saints uniform, she wants to leave everything on the field.
“I really want to give it my all,” Brock said. “It’s my last year ever playing with these girls. and I want to have fun. My team goal for this season is to make it to the state tournament.”
During the off-season she played summer soccer and attended a team camp. She lifted weights to improve her strength and speed. She also held captains’ practices, so more girls would participate.
“I’ve improved on my technical skill over this past year,” she said. “I can control and dribble the ball a lot better now, but I still really need to improve.”
She is hoping the way the Saints are uniting as a team will translate into success.
“This team is the dream team,” she said. “I think our chemistry is the best it’s ever been, and we all get along so well. We all have so much fun playing with each other.”
Brock said she has a loquacious style of leadership.
“I am a vocal player since I see the field the best and I’m the loudest; I don’t think there’s ever a minute where I don’t talk during a game or practice,” she said.
After eight years of playing with the Saints, she has assembled a number of rituals before a game.
“I always have to put on my gear going from my right foot to my left. I always wear the same color pre-wrap, and I make sure that it’s never purple. When we are on the road, I have to take a nap on the bus; otherwise, I feel like I can’t function. I also have to be partners with Amelia for everything; otherwise my whole game feels off.”
Carlson, who also participates in track and field, has been playing soccer since she was about 5 years old.
“I started because I wanted to play soccer like my older brother, Matt,” she said.
She noted the camaraderie that goes along with the sport and the thrill of putting the ball in the net has kept her on the field.
“I absolutely love the feeling of the team and how we build each other up, how we can count on each other,” she said. “I also love the feeling after scoring a goal; there’s nothing like it. Playing with your best friends is kind of amazing too.”
Carlson mainly plays center midfield.
“I like how involved I get to be in every aspect of the game and everywhere on the field, but that is also what makes it so challenging,” she said. “It’s sometimes hard to know where to be and it’s physically demanding as well.”
She wants to compete at her best level in her final season and yet have a good time doing it.
“As an individual, I really want to have fun my last year and to be all in. I want to be the best player that I can be for myself and for the team. As a team, one goal I have is to win our conference and to shoot for the state tournament.”
In the off-season, Brock helped with youth camps, held captains practices and played in the summer soccer league, She also lifted to get stronger and faster.
“I feel that I have improved in my confidence on the ball and with my abilities like first touch and receiving,” she said. “I would still like to improve in every aspect of my game, but especially my shooting, passing, and movement on and off the ball.”
Carlson agreed that the Saints are a united bunch.
“This year’s team is supportive and ready to work,” she said. “We have such good chemistry already, and we all have big goals for ourselves and for each other. Our season will be successful if we can continually connect and keep our energy as high as it is the first game throughout the entire season.”
As a leader, she is the yin to Brock’s yang.
“Personally I am more of a quiet leader, and I feel like I lead more by example, but I’ve been trying to work on becoming more vocal on and off the field in the recent years to benefit my team in any way I can,” she said.
She also has a few superstitions before competing.
“Before a game I have a specific order I put on my equipment, and I wear the same color pre-wrap every single game. In warmups I’m also always partners with AJ because it’s been that way for years and years.”
Gilbertson has been playing soccer since she was in sixth grade. Her first experience was on a summer league. She likes the contrast soccer provides to the other sports she competes in: gymnastics and track.
“I like soccer because you get to play as a team,” she said. “All my other sports are mainly individual, so I like how I get to play with my teammates. I also love the feeling after you win a game as a team. It’s one of my favorite feelings.”
She plays either outside or center midfield.
“I like playing there because it includes lots of passing and seeing where you can start a play,” she said. “I also like being everywhere on the field. But the hard part about this position is that there is a lot of running and it can be super tiring.”
During the offseason, Gilbertson lifted and went to a camp led by the Saints coaches to help get back in rhythm. She also made sure to get a foot on the ball.
“One of my main goals is to become a better leader for my teammates. I think I improved my confidence with the ball and my ball handling skills. I’m not afraid to take the ball up myself. I want to improve on shooting and my accuracy and placement in the net.”
Gilbertson has high but reasonable expectations for the Saints this season.
“As a team I really want to get far into playoffs and be conference champs,” she said. “We have a lot of drive and determination to get better and win. Being able to control our passes and control the field is going to help the season be successful.”
She said her leadership style aligns with Brock’s.
“I am definitely more of a vocal leader and will be a leader by getting everybody hyped up for the game or making sure we are all putting in our best effort at all times,” she said.
She hasn’t developed any pre-game compulsions, at least not yet.
“I don’t really have any rituals before a game, but I do like to juggle the ball before we get ready to warm up,” she said. “Getting a foot on the ball can sometimes calm my nerves.”
The Saints start their season against host Fairmont on Thursday, Aug. 22.