The inaugural season for Elkhorn North’s girls soccer program has come with a question.
The Wolves are one win away from a state tournament bid in their opening year, a win they’re hoping comes in Saturday’s district final.
“It’s been a learning process,” Elkhorn North coach Troy Stoller said. “Definitely a challenge. But we’ve got a great group of kids. They’ve bought into it and they don’t back down from anybody.”
There have been plenty of chances to prove that, too.
Of 10 losses, eight came to other teams playing in district finals. Half of those were by one score.
After starting the season 1-5, Stoller’s bunch won five of its next six, including a couple of crucial results for postseason purposes.
“We’ve been talking about wild-card points for about two weeks,” Stoller said. “There were certain games we had to win, and we put the pressure on ourselves to do that. They stepped up.”
A shootout win over Waverly in the subdistrict semifinals sealed the deal according to Stoller’s math.
Beating fourth-ranked Omaha Mercy on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at College of St. Mary is a different sort of test, altogether. The Monarchs have played in four of the past five state tournaments, reaching the semifinals twice in that stretch.
“Mercy is a traditional powerhouse,” Stoller said. “They’re known as a strong, physical team. It will be time for our girls to step up to the challenge.”
Challenges have been aplenty. In a four-day stretch late in the season, Elkhorn North had narrow losses to top-ranked Omaha Skutt (3-0) and No. 2 Norris (1-0).
Some may think a team in its first year of existence playing with no seniors would be happy to be on the brink of a state tournament.
Not the Wolves.
“Our record doesn’t reflect what this team could accomplish,” Stoller said.
Added junior Michaela Fox: “It would be a disappointment (to not make state) because of how far we’ve come. But just the fact that we’re in a district final in our first year is pretty amazing.”
Stoller called the Elkhorn North strength its middle of the field. It’s a place where the “most impactful” players typically reside in his scheme.
“We’re so young that we try to possess, but that doesn’t always work out,” he said.
For the Wolves that’s a pair of speedy forwards, a midfield of playmakers and center backs with an edge.
“They’re there to kind of run the show,” Stoller said of his middle.
Junior forward Riley Wilson called the program’s first win — over Stoller’s former team, Elkhorn High, in early April — a turning point in the season.
The Wolves have had to raise their bar a bit since that time.
“When we started the season, our goal was to win a game,” Wilson said, “and now we want to get to the state tournament.”
Add an eighth win to the tally and that’s exactly where the Wolves will be next week when then the tourney begins at Morrison Stadium. Any questions about their intentions this season can be answered by the message they wear on the back of their practice jerseys daily.