WILLMAR — The Willmar Cardinals girls soccer team is prepared to kick things into gear for the start of the upcoming season.

The Cardinals ended last season with a 7-5-1 record, including 6-3 in the Central Lakes Conference, its best record since the 2017-18 season when the Cardinals went 7-7-2. After defeating Hutchinson in the first round of the 6A girls soccer playoffs, the Cardinals saw its season end with a 5-0 loss to Orono.

“Orono is a powerhouse and they’ve been a powerhouse and we know that,” Cardinals’ coach Amanda Broman said. “Seeing them in the playoffs was tough last year. But I think the experience of winning a game at home, we’re hoping for another home playoff game this year if we can find a way to get there and then ride the excitement of the senior class through the playoffs. Hopefully we can continue the success we had last year.”

This year, with 13 returning seniors, Broman is confident her team has what it takes to continue from last season’s success.

“I know the girls are really looking forward to getting back out there and getting to play some games,” said Broman, who is in her third year as head coach. “Last year was a great year for us. We had a really well-rounded field. We were able to be pretty successful in our conference play.”

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Willmar junior forward Ellary Lange takes a shot towards goal during Tuesday's Central Lakes Conference match against St. Cloud Tech from Hodapp Field in Willmar. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune
Willmar junior forward Ellary Lange takes a shot towards goal during Tuesday's Central Lakes Conference match against St. Cloud Tech from Hodapp Field in Willmar. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

One thing different from last season that could highly benefit the Cardinals this season, having the ability to play summer soccer.

“In the 2020 summer, we didn’t have a summer program here at Willmar because the MYSA decided to suspend play and because of that we lost that summer time,” Broman said. “We could only do some (soccer) camp a little in the summer.

“This year, we were able to play during the summer time and so these girls have really played together these last few months and have developed that chemistry. We’re just going to keep it rolling through this season. I’m excited to see the creativity and movement that we can see on the offensive side of the field with those players.”

The Cardinals will be looking to replace Julissa Celis-Victoria, a former captain, forward and midfielder and Willmar’s main offensive threat.

Shinn believes her three senior captains — Samantha Christoffer, Ellary Lange and Ella Shinn — are all prepared to fill that void and bring some victories to the Cardinals.

“Ella Shinn is going to kind of step into that controlling role and be that mid-field area as a senior,” Broman said. “Then we got Jaida Reiman coming back in our center-back spot that’s going to help bridge that gap too.

“And our keeper, Ella Swenson, she is going to be key to our success this year too.”

With the sections realigned every two years, Willmar is now part of an eight-team section as opposed to 16. Teams included are Monticello, St. Cloud Apollo, St. Cloud Tech and Rocori.

The transition is another confidence-booster to the Cardinals leading into the upcoming season.

“It’s kind of a whole new ball game,” Broman said.

With 35 athletes competing on JV and varsity, the largest Shinn has seen in her three years with the team, the coach was highly confident that Willmar will have success. But how much success will be seen throughout this season.

“I think that we’ll have a lot of talent, a lot of skill and a lot of drive because of the amount of seniors that we have,” she said. “They want to be successful and they believe in themselves and they trust each other on the field.”

“We see girls growing their love for the game and being excited to be here and wanting to play,” she added, “just seeing that senior class and helping them lead and develop the younger players and then just having some while we do it.

In terms of what she hopes to accomplish this season, Broman hopes to see progression each day.

“I’m kind of on the three pillars of work hard, get better, and have a little bit of fun,” she said. “My goal every year is to really work hard and reach our potential in every game we play. Get better every day so that we’re learning from each other and with each other and then, at the end of the day, have a little fun and enjoy and love the game of soccer.”

The Cardinals were scheduled to have its season/home opener on Thursday, August 26, against Becker. However, the match was postponed to Tuesday, Oct. 5, on Thursday due to heavy rain.

The Cardinals hope to see their first action at 10 a.m. Saturday, August 28, at Monticello. Willmar’s home-opener is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7, against Sauk Rapids-Rice.