Soccer: Amy Korynta looking to guide Cardinal girls back to the state tournament
Alexandria finished the 2021 season with a 15-3-1 and the program's third-ever state tournament appearance. Amy Korynta is the former Alexandria head coach and will be once again as former head coach Tom Roos is now coaching at the Alexandria Technical and Community College.
Tom Roos ended his coaching tenure with the Alexandria Cardinals soccer team on the right foot, guiding the girls team to a state tournament appearance and a 15-3-1 record in 2021.
Roos is now the head coach of the soccer programs at Alexandria Technical and Community College and former Alexandria head coach Amy Korynta is now leading the program.
“I'm just really excited to have a super great coaching staff,” Korynta said. “The program is so strong, so I’m excited to work with them (players/coaches) and continue developing the program.”
In 2021, Alexandria went 12-0 in Section 8AA games and outscored its three opponents in the playoffs by a combined 6-0 to advance to the state tournament for the third time in program history (made it in 2003 and 2006).
“We have a very determined group of athletes returning, and we have a really strong core group that was on that team last year,” Korynta said. “They have a lot of motivation. They're very enthused about the season.”
Korynta served as an assistant on Roos’ staff for the past eight years and was a head coach for Alexandria for a couple of years before Roos took over in 2003.
Roos was an assistant for a time under Korynta when she was previously the head coach.
“He built his legacy,” Korynta said about Roos. “And one thing we always talked about in the past years with the girls is every day you work to make yourself better. You work to make the team better and you work to build a positive culture. And I think he left us with that. That’s where we will pick things up and build off of that.”
Korynta is confident the team has what it takes to make it back to the state tournament thanks to returning experience, starting with returning co-captains senior forward Ella Westlund and senior goalkeeper Sophia Vinje (more co-captains may be added later on). Both were All-Central Lakes Conference selections in 2021.
“They had that experience of being in that leadership role last year and they’re bringing that with them this year,” Korynta said. “In the offseason, they were really helpful. I was able to communicate with them and kind of get some things planned and organized. But it's nice just knowing that they kind of know what that feels like and what those expectations may feel like.”
Through the first few days of practice, Korynta has been excited to see the number of girls trying out for the soccer team.
“I'm super excited that we have girls out this year that have never played before, but they get to high school and they want to give it a try,” Korynta said. “We do every year. I think that speaks to the program that Tom helped build. Everyone is welcome, has a good time, and feels like they’re a part of something special.”
With a good nucleus of their team back from a season ago, the Cardinals have their sights set on making it back to the state tournament.
“Last year, we had really strong team chemistry,” Westlund said. “So I think building that up again, with the new faces and including them will help. I think just remembering that feeling and just working for it every practice and pushing each other to the furthest abilities will help too.”
Cardinals filling holes defensively, remain intact on the attack
On defense, Korynta said that they’re looking to refill some of the spots the senior defenders from last year filled and that having an experienced goalkeeper can help cushion that.
“When you’re very confident in your goalie, you can play aggressively on defense because there's maybe not a fear of making a mistake,” Korynta said. “And Sophia really encourages them and talks to them and helps them sort things out defensively. She's got so much game experience. I can't imagine there's a goalie in the state that has more varsity experience than her. Maybe not even just goalies but also field players. She's been playing varsity for six years.”
With that experience, Vinje has gotten the chance to see how upperclassmen have led by example. Vinje said it will be key for the team to take the lessons taught by last year’s seniors and apply them this season and build on them.
One of the key losses to graduation the Cardinals had this spring is Kylee James, who was an anchor defensively, was voted the team’s MVP for the 2021 season, was all-conference and an All-State selection.
The Cardinals return defender Ellen Panther, a senior who was voted the team’s Hustle Award winner at the 2021 season banquet.
Last season, Alexandria allowed just seven goals in the regular season and shut out their opponents 13 times.
Alexandria’s main offensive attack is back. In fact, they’re adding an attacker back, senior Morgan James, who missed her junior season due to an injury.
“We’re super excited knowing what we have and then knowing we have her coming back,” Korynta said. “And then there are some incredibly talented, younger players that can help fill in. We're a really solid team all around on the attack.”
Westlund, who was an all-state selection last season, helps anchor the offense.
“I'm really excited because we have a very strong team returning from last year. We accomplished a lot,” Westlund said. “It’s going to be exciting to see what we can do this year.”
Sophia Korynta and Greta Oldenkamp were CLC honorable mentions as sophomores and are ready for their junior year. Junior Elle Heydt and sophomore Allie Haabala played significant time on the attack.
“We have a lot of speed and I think that we have a lot of players that can use both our right and our left foot attacking,” Amy Korynta said. “Their overall awareness of the field, spacing and the ability to make quick passes and anticipate is really going to give us an advantage over other teams, and there isn't an area where we're weak. We have returning varsity players in every single position. They have a lot of experience and athleticism.”
Getting off to a fast start
The Cardinals have compiled a 23-3-4 record over the last two seasons, and a lot of their success has come because of a fast start.
In the last two seasons, the Cardinals are a combined 9-0-1 in the first five games of the season and have more than one goal in just one of those games.
“We start off our practices really strong. We like to push each other,” Vinje said. “We're not being mean, but we’re pushing each other to be better all the time.”
Alexandria begins its season with a home game on Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. against Moorhead and a home game on Aug. 27 at 3:30 p.m. against Detroit Lakes. Players and coaches hope it’s the start of another winning season for this program.
“They have some pretty high goals as a team,” Korynta said. “The excitement is there, the dedication is there, the hard work, the determination, all that stuff is there. And they're just really ready to go.”