In her ninth year as the women’s soccer coach at her alma-mater, Northglenn, Kristina Churchill led her team to their first conference title since her playing days at the school 15 years prior. …
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In her ninth year as the women’s soccer coach at her alma-mater, Northglenn, Kristina Churchill led her team to their first conference title since her playing days at the school 15 years prior.
With loads of young talent and a group willing to put in the work, the 2019 season could be just the tip of the iceberg for this surging program.
Going an astounding 10-0 in the competitive 5A EMAC conference, the Lady Norse ended the regular season on a 10-game winning streak heading into their first state playoff game since 2004.
“The memory that comes up is pure elation,” Churchill said about the school winning the EMAC conference championship on a phone interview. “I saw it on the girls’ faces. They finally had something to show for everything after all of the hard work.
“Knowing day in and day out that did everything they could is awesome,” she said. “I was a player who did that (won a conference championship in 2004) and now to be the coach, I mean, these girls made it easy for me because they put in the work.”
Despite the defeat to the veteran-led group of Arapahoe, only positives surround Churchill and her group moving forward.
“I think we showed very well against Arapahoe and just some young player mistakes hurt, but the girls are very eager to go forward and learn from that for next season,” Churchill said. “It doesn’t just start next February, it starts right now in their offseason workouts, with their club teams or just wherever you can play and try to improve.”
With lone senior Nariana Nealy leaving the program, the rest of the roster will return in 2020. However, the leadership and obstacle-overcoming ability of the senior forward provided her teammates with lessons that can potentially further the work-ethic and skill of their talents.
“Nari is the epidemy of a solid hard-worker and leader. She started her freshman and sophomore year as our goalkeeper before she tore her ACL playing basketball,” Churchill said. “The girls saw her working so hard to get back in the preseason, and they know what kind of injury that is and how many girls do not come back from that. I think the girls really learned that you can have talent, but it’s the work you put in that makes you. I think the girls really pushed hard for this year knowing that it was her senior year and that she deserved that (season) after all she went through. It was very wonderful to watch as a coach.”
Only two seniors in goaltender Lauren Knorr and Samantha Dominguez Reyes will be present with the junior-heavy class of nine next season. As the leaders of the Lady Norse head into year No. 3 of playing together, tips from anywhere to help expand their talents is coming from Churchill this offseason. Through clips of the women from the United States’ team in the World Cup or just playing the game in general, Churchill wants as much as exposure for her group as possible.
“The US women’s team is probably one of the hardest teams to analyze because compared to the other 23 teams in the tournament, I think they are by far the most talented individually. I try to be on Twitter a lot with the girls (on the Northglenn team) to say `hey watch this’ even if they look up to them, watch them when they aren’t having their best game and how they are still contributing to help their team win.”
Churchill, who is also the JV boy’s coach at Northglenn, said the training and conditioning part of the season wouldn’t become team-wide until November for the ladies. An interesting statement in regards to health and strength had to do with the importance of upper body work, which you often don’t hear much about in soccer. Strengthening the muscles near the neck to help prevent concussions is something Churchill implements during the offseason for the safety of her team.
As springtime will roll around before we know it, the Lady Norse of Northglenn hopes to make even more memories starting in February.
“I think we can be a really good team. We should challenge for the (conference) title again, but I also believe we can go further along in the playoffs. I think we learned a lot from the Arapahoe game because we made simple errors,” Churchill said. “The girls are hungry. They had a taste of what a championship feels like.”
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