FAIRMONT - Matt Nielsen searched for 'soccer books' on google.com and the first option listed was Amazon.com.
One of the choices catching Nielsen's eye was Michael Zigarelli's late 2011 release.
"Every summer, I try to get one (book) pertaining to soccer, and came upon an interesting one in the "Messiah Method." ... It's based on the seven disciplines of the winningest college soccer program located in (Grantham) Pennsylvania," said Nielsen.
BACK?IN?GOAL — Members of the Fairmont Area Cardinal girls soccer lineup kicking off the season by playing host to Austin at 5 p.m. today at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont include, front row (l-r): Artie the mascot, Wilbur the mascot, Mackenzie Betts, Krysta Ostlie, Kaylee Sauck, Rachael Sauck, Katie Nicoson, Caitlin Parsley, Aerial Wenzel, Chloe Colvin and Kayley Shoen. Second row: Morgan Sandersfeld, Logyn Cone, Taylor Wolf, Samanta Marzullo, Marissa Naab, Riann Dietz, Marissa Voss, Jayden Koskovich, Claire Gerhardt, Madison Holmers and Erin Rahm. Third row: Hayley Jones, Sarah Dauer Lane, Hailey Wolter, Natalie Shimon, Brooklyn Leichtnam, Ashten Atzenhoefer, Quincy Quiring, Nicole Lenort, Talitha Burtis, Lexi Johnson, Sierra Schultz and Sierra Schrader. Back row: Manager Megan Rosol, Sophie Brau, Dayna Madsen, Marisa Nelson, Sydney Leichtnam, Alexis Christianson, assistant coach Lael Luedtke, head coach Matt Nielsen, Jess Koskovich, Cassidy Krusemark, Jordyn Junkermeier, Emily Kloeckner, Kelsy Junkermeier, Alexis Bass and Nina Beranek. Not pictured: Courtney Guetter and Ciera Drevlow. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Like most progressive prep coaches, Nielsen has adapted one of the book's principles for use during his preseason practices at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont.
"The book talks about how successful teams don't quit," said the only head coach during the Cardinal girls soccer program's seven-year existence. " ... When players get tired or panicked, they have to remember that they still have to do a 'job.'"
Fairmont Area's task at-hand will be to increase its point production in 2012 after compiling an 8-10 record that included seven losses by only one goal a year ago.
Nielsen's Cardinals will receive their first test at 5 p.m. today when they play host to nonconference opponent Austin in both teams' season-opener in Fairmont.
"After looking at the number of one-goal games we played last year, we're hoping to punch up our scoring this season," said Nielsen.
Tri-captain Katie Nicoson, a hard-charging senior midfielder, will literally trigger Fairmont Area's upfield bursts after producing five goals and three assists en route to honorable mention all-state accolades and all-South Central Conference honors last fall.
"She (Nicoson) is an unbelievable player, especially along the left edge," said Nielsen.
Senior midfielder Caitlin Parsley, who distributed three assists in 2011, and senior middle defender Rachael Sauck will join Nicoson as tri-captains in providing solid leadership on and off the field this campaign.
Junior Brooklyn Leichtnam will provide tenacity to the Cardinals' starting line of midfielders, with fleet-footed sophomore Kayley Shoen, junior Natalie Shimon and senior Krysta Ostlie also figuring into the mix.
Sophomore Hayley Jones, senior Chloe Colvin and senior Kaylee Sauck also will rotate into the lineup as playmakers from the midfield position.
Nicoson and Parsley once again will look to find Mercurial sophomore striker Sierra Schultz - who registered five goals and two assists a year ago - and sophomore striker Lexi Johnson - one of the undefeated Cardinal B-squad's top scorers in 2011 - in the passing lanes.
"Both (Schultz and Johnson) have a lot of speed, have a nose for the goal and are unapologetic in the way they attack," said Nielsen.
Junior forward Quincy Quiring, who tallied a team-best six goals to go with two assists in 2011, also will figure into the offensive mix as will senior Aerial Wenzel and sophomore Sarah Dauer Lane.
Junior Mackenzie Betts and sophomore Sierra Schrader will rotate at the Cardinals' stopper spot at the other end of the field, while receiving solid defensive support from the junior quartet of Nicole Lenort, Hailey Wolter, Ashten Atzenhoefer and Talitha Burtis.
"I think our defense has better catchup speed this year and most of our defenders are calm with the ball. They don't just kick it out-of-bounds, but can control it and get the passing going upfield," said Nielsen.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, junior defender Courtney Guetter suffered a knee injury and will likely miss the entire 2012 campaign.
Meanwhile, junior Jess Koskovich and sophomore Alexis Christianson will rotate at the keeper position during the early stages of the season, according to Nielsen.
"Our keepers will have to figure out their own strengths and weaknesses, and we'll go from there," said Nielsen.
Now, Fairmont Area will have to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of SCC foe St. Peter, who made an incredible late-season run to reach the 2011 Class A state tournament.
Once again, St. Peter - along with Big Nine Conference powers Albert Lea, Mankato East and Mankato West - will represent the toughest challenges during the 2012 Section 2A postseason tournament.
"To go forward in the playoffs, you'll need to beat one of those (above-mentioned) teams," said Nielsen.
And that's quite a job for any team in a talent-laden conference like the SCC or a skilled section like 2A.