Grand Forks soccer preview: Central offensive improvement key to back-to-back state appearance hopes

Apr. 12—GRAND FORKS — Claire Hynek scored one goal for Grand Forks Central last season.

The senior midfielder surpassed that total in the Knights' season opener Tuesday.

Hynek scored twice in a 3-3 tie against Fargo South for a Central team that hopes to make back-to-back state tournaments.

"It was an amazing way to start my final season," she said.

Central coach George DuBois said Hynek was "central to a lot of the dangerous plays we were able to set up," something the Knights will need this season as senior Clara Flores, who scored six of Central's 16 goals last season, is out with an injury.

The Knights have improved year after year, netting 16 goals last year after scoring eight in 2022.

"In previous seasons we've been more of a defensive-minded team," Hynek said. "Focusing on our offensive build, getting numbers up and inserting defensive players into the attack has already created more opportunities to score than we've had."

Junior defender Madi McLaughlin, an all-EDC pick a year ago, has also impacted games already, tallying two assists on Central's six goals.

The back line of juniors McLaughlin, Mae Dickelman and Emily Common returns from last season.

"It's nice to return that continuity from a year ago," DuBois said. "One of the strengths of our team this year is we don't have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out who fits into what role. I also think that returning team chemistry helps as well. That allows us to pick up where we left off, instead of having to reassign roles."

The Knights made the state tournament last season for the first time since 2004 and "it's pretty obvious they want to have that experience again," DuBois said.

Central does have a chance to make a second-straight state appearance, though, because of players' increased confidence.

"The skills that they've improved upon allow them to have more confidence with the ball, which allows them to be more confident in how we attack as a team," DuBois said. "What they've done on their own is already starting to translate into seeing that next jump."

Coach: George DuBois.

2023 record/finish: 5-8-3, lost in state tournament quarterfinals.

Key returners: Sr. M Claire Hynek, jr. D Madi McLaughlin, jr. D Mae Dickelman, jr. M Lauren Reardon, jr. M Aubriell Kraemer, jr. D Emily Common, eighth grade D Addie Lamb, soph. GK Hailey Anderson-Tibiatowski, fr. F Kelsie McLaughlin, soph. F Jacie Reardon, soph. F Rowan Olmstead.

Top newcomers: Eighth grade F Lauren Malott, soph. F Ava Walsh.

Coach DuBois says: "As far as the East goes, you want to be able to compete for those top four spots. It's going to be a challenge because a lot of other teams have gotten better and improved in the offseason as well. It's going to be a battle for those qualifying spots. They just want to make sure that they're getting the results that put them in the mix to compete for a return spot at state."

Coach: Jason Heydt.

2023 record/finish: 5-7-2.

Key returners: Sr. M Maggie Barker, sr. M/F Morgan Hartze, sr. GK Eden Parkinson, jr. M Payton Bergeron, jr. M Madelyn DeLong, jr. M/F Aila Effhauser, jr. D Addison Fargo, soph. M Addison Kotrba, soph. M/F Reese Remz, eighth grade D/M Reagan Hodny, eighth grade M/F Taylor Hodny, eighth grade D Reagan Taylor.

Top newcomers: Sr. M Taryn Swanson, sr. D/F Ava Wray, sr. M Ainsley Hoefs, jr. M Alexis Geffre.

Coach Heydt says: "We just missed qualifying for the state tournament last season, and I think some teams might be overlooking us thinking it will be a rebuilding year as we lost 10 varsity athletes from last season. I don't see it that way at all. The girls know how close we were last season and are ready to take the next step. They have put in a lot of work since last spring and it has definitely shown up in practice. We should have a pretty balanced attack with lots of girls having the ability to put the ball in the net. Combine that with an experienced back end, and we have the potential to do some pretty cool things."