At the start of the 2014 season, the Bluejacket girls soccer coaches had to find someone to fill the goalie position vacated by graduated All-Conference goalie Justine Larson. Their solution wound up being converting sophomore Lainie Cox to the position. The reasoning for putting Cox at a position she had never played before seemed logical considering her physical attributes and playing style.
“We decided to convert Lainie for the position due to her athleticism and tenacity,” said head coach Michael Galligan.
Two years later, that assessment still holds true when describing the now-senior’s style of play in front of the net. But the catch is, she is now playing in front of the opponent’s net – as a forward for the Bluejackets. Despite a successful stint at goalie, the versatile Cox has once again switched to a somewhat unfamiliar position to fill a gap for the team.
“At the beginning of this season our starting left forward Haley ‘Junior’ Karels, was sidelined from an out-of-season injury,” explained coach Galligan. “Looking for a solution we tried a number of lineups at our early-season scrimmage jamboree in Esko. One of those lineups included Lainie at left forward. We noticed two things in that scrimmage: first, our attack became much more dangerous with her speed, size and skill up front. And second, wherever she was, the ball seemed to be there too.”
Galligan’s statement about the Bluejackets’ dangerous attack could be considered quite the understatement. In just six games this season, Cox’s 11 goals equal the entire team’s goal total from all of last season.
The move was also a welcomed change for Cox. “Being goalie at first was very nerve-wracking and challenging,” she said. “But throughout the seasons I grew to become more comfortable with the position. However, I ultimately enjoy playing offense more as I have had more prior experience as a field player while playing midfield during summer soccer. Playing up at forward is also more fun for me because I feel better knowing Kirty is excelling in the position she loves, while I can help the team in other aspects of the game.”
“Kirty” is senior goalie Kirsten Belsheim. According to coach Galligan, it was Belsheim’s excellent play after replacing an injured Cox midway through last season that enabled this season’s moves. “Kirsten’s stellar performance in goal gave us the opportunity to put Lainie on the field, something we had been hoping to do eventually anyway,” said Galligan.
Coach Galligan is also quick to rattle off the contributions of a number of other players so far. “She (Cox) is being expertly assisted by a talented supporting cast including senior forward Bailey Richards and junior center midfielder Kristy King,” he said. “Freshman Alexa Sutherland has also made a big impact at left wing, both with the chemistry she and Lainie have developed in their passing game and in scoring three goals of her own. Also, senior midfielder Kayli Knighton-Johnson’s leadership on the field has really helped coordinate play between our lines, she is an excellent field commander with great vision and knowledge of the game. Senior Trista Betz is one of our greatest unsung heroes. She is the kind of player you can put anywhere on the field with complete confidence knowing she is going to outwork anyone in her area.”
Galligan is also very confident in his team’s ability to play a more defensive-minded game when going up against other aggressively-attacking teams such as their 1-0 win over Forest Lake.
“The work by our defensive line of Anna Varsoke, Hallie Devries, Katie Viesselman, Molly Furlong and Blakke Springob to destroy our opponent’s attacks has been outstanding,” he complimented. “Together, they form a wall that is very tough to get through.”
Ultimately, what has stood out to the coaches and players is how cohesive a team this is. “Our record only reflects half of the successes we have reached together,” said Cox. “Besides winning, we have really gelled together into a strong unit. We work really well together and just have a lot fun as a team. I believe our team’s chemistry has played a large role in our success as a group.”
Coach Galligan echoed his senior captain’s sentiments. “We’re very proud of this team as a coaching staff, not only for their competitive muscle but also for their excellent character and camaraderie,” he said. “The coaches and players alike are all looking forward to the rest of the season and seeing what this team can accomplish.”