Marinette goalkeeper Carrie Knutson makes a save in practice Monday in the P.F. Neverman Gym. The Marines hope to open their season Thursday at Denmark.  EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Marinette goalkeeper Carrie Knutson makes a save in practice Monday in the P.F. Neverman Gym. The Marines hope to open their season Thursday at Denmark.
EagleHerald/Jody Korch
MARINETTE - Last spring's inaugural Marinette Marine girls' soccer season was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. It's also a hard act to follow.

In Year 2 of Marinette girls' soccer, the Marines won't sneak up on anyone. The Marines return most of the members of last season's team which finished 12-8. But they graduated last year's playmaker, Allie Mahlik, a first team all-Bay Conference pick, as well as Ashly Torkko, an honorable mention player.

Mahlik's father, Marine head coach Chris Mahlik, doesn't think the team will be as good as a year ago.

"I think we're going to be better," he said. "We have a larger core of girls who know soccer."

Numbers are up enough to field a junior varsity team along with the varsity. There are just four seniors - Carrie Knutson, Keisha Stuart, Felicia Roggendorf and Sara Kitzinger - but it's a good group. Stuart earned all-conference honorable mention on defense. Kitzinger also is a defensive stalwart, and Roggendorf is a scoring threat.

Knutson missed much of last season due to a concussion. She's working to improve on defending low shots.

"Tall goalie, great hands," coach Mahlik said. "Carrie looks good."

Juniors include speedy forward Zoey Hallfrisch, Tiffany Deastell, Shelby Atwood and McKenzee Tibbits.

Sophomores are Alex Cording, Martina Dura, Alex Haight, Cassondra McVane, Rachel Tupper, Megan Veriha, Lily Kallestad and Joelle Stefanic.

Cording made the all-conference second team as a freshman, when she ranked second in the Bay with 16 goals and had three assists. Cording has recovered from a knee injury suffered last summer. She was a forward last season but will play a lot of midfield and will assume the playmaker role.

After a spectacular freshman season Cording will be a marked Marine, but she will be moved around a lot.

"Teams are going to have to look to see where she's playing," coach Mahlik said. "Assists are more valuable or as valuable as scoring, and Alex will be able to do that. She accepts that role."

McVane is another scoring option and Dura is an exceptional defender.

A strong freshman group includes Eva Miller, Leah Lynch, Lexi Biehl, Cassidy DeWitt, Lexi Bohan, Amy Genisot, Jayden Schreiner, Katy Langer, Ally Eldredge, Morgan Russell and Rebecca Dura.

Russell, Biehl, DeWitt, Eldredge and Bohan could all be varsity impact players as freshmen. The coaches are counting on Bohan, Russell, Roggendorf, Hallfrisch and McVane to assume some of the scoring burden from Cording.

Assistant coach Natalie Ramello played semipro soccer and University of Colorado soccer. Ramello said she was surprised by Marinette's instant success last season. She's instilling ball control, communication, moving in triangles and soccer I.Q.

"I don't play kick-and-run soccer," Ramello said. "Learning the game. If you haven't been around the game, becoming a student of the game, it can be tough. They all want to learn. I think that's very important."

The volunteer assistants are Nils Coleman, Mike "Spike" Dura and Frank Pohlmann.

The Marines will run 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 alignments.

Defense is another priority. Pohlmann preaches building soccer teams from the back end up.

"Let's face it, there isn't much scoring in soccer," Mahlik said, "but if they don't score they don't win. The defense is the backbone of the team."