Laurel girls soccer program creating legacy despite loss of graduates

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Story And Photo By Joe Kusek
Thursday, October 14, 2021
(Left to right): Senior captains Chloe Baumann, Anna Cole and Grace Wagner helped the younger players learn about Laurel’s legacy in girls soccer this season.

(Left to right): Senior captains Chloe Baumann, Anna Cole and Grace Wagner helped the younger players learn about Laurel’s legacy in girls soccer this season.

First they dance.

Then they play.

Their play on the pitch speaks for itself. Back-to-back Class A state championships, along with titles in 2017 and 2014.

The Laurel girls soccer program has played in seven consecutive Class A championship matches. The Locomotives began pursuit of a three-peat and eighth straight title appearance this week.

“This means a lot,” offered senior Grace Wagner of the state tournament. “It’s one last time to step on this field. This has been something special to be part of.”

Wagner is a team captain, along with Chloe Baumann and Anna Cole. The three have different personalities and play different positions, but share a common drive.

“Always the end goal is to win the state championship,” said Baumann. “We knew it will be hard to do. We have a lot of young players.”

“It’s working,” goal keeper Anna Cole added quickly.

Baumann is center midfield, one of the distributors on offense. Wagner is a defender.

Laurel is a team in transition after losing eight seniors off last year’s team. Along with new players, including two freshmen, in the lineup, Tom Maack took over for Aloma Jess as head coach.

The Locomotives finished 11-1 during the regular season, a goal shy of claiming the Eastern A title and home field advantage through the playoffs.

“Practices have been more intense from last year,” said Cole. “There has been so much learning.”

All three agreed the foundation for the 2021 success was started during summer workouts. The trio said the team would meet in the morning with the older players returning in the evening to help the newcomers.

“The new girls had to commit to the program. To learn how to compete with composure,” Baumann said.

The captains lead every drill by example, occasionally being vocal on their lessons.

“I feel mean,” said Cole with a smile. “I don’t want to be mean.”

The learning curve included the sustained intensity needed to play for a program with high expectations and the ferocity of the matches against Billings Central.

“We have to take it game by game,” Wagner said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty. At the end of the day, a win is a win.”

Not all of the education came during drills and video works. Matches provided the best learning environment.

Laurel’s competitive mettle was tested when it found itself behind 3-0 at home in the first regular season match against Billings Central.

“We never give up whether we’re down three or down six,” Wagner said. “We have to teach the new girls that this is what it takes.”

“It was all positive at halftime,” continued Cole. Laurel scored two second-half goals to

Laurel scored two second-half goals to make it close. The Locomotives defeated Billings Central 3-2 in the regular season finale.

“We finally figured it out on our own,” said Wagner. “Some of the younger girls responded against Billings Central.

“Coach Maack says it is how you respond, good or bad, to a situation.”

The lessons go beyond the pitch.

The team tries to dance to “Footloose” before every match. And some have their own pre-match routine.

“I drink tea,” said Baumann.

“I’m not a loud person,” Wagner said. “I like getting everybody pumped up. I see some people quiet, I try to get them into it.”

Cole doesn’t have any special preparation for a match but throws in, “We also sing before every game.”

The singing, dancing, the stellar playing is all part of the Laurel soccer experience. And the three want it to continue.

“I just want to have them keep this legacy,” Wagner said of the upcoming group. “To expand on what I did.”

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