GREEN BAY - Over the last two years Appleton North has been one of the best girls soccer teams in the state as it has won more than 40 games and captured the Division 1 2011 state title.
This year, more of the same is expected of North, which kicked off its season Tuesday with a 4-1 win at Notre Dame.
The Lightning feature Meg Riebau, who's headed to play at Winona State next year, and despite the loss of key players like Kati Baker and Chrissy Mauthe, the Lightning once again expects to have another successful season.
"I think this team can be as good as any we've had," North coach John Wuebben said. "I think it might take more time. There's certainly the talent here.
"There are a number of newcomers that have a lot of potential. There are also a number of players here who were there in the past but were the second person coming in and now it's their chance to shine."
One of those players who has been there the past two seasons, when North has compiled a 42-1-3 record, is Riebau. One reason Wuebben is confident his team once again will be formidable is Riebau, who has developed into more than just a goal scorer.
"She is the heart and soul," Wuebben said. "She adds a lot of spirit and emotion. People respond to her on the team. She's a great leader."
Tuesday, Riebau didn't score but added an assist. North had four different players score goals in what was the team's first game or practice outside.
Because of that Wuebben was pleased with what he saw against the 2012 Division 2 state semifinalist Tritons.
"I thought we did OK," Wuebben said. "A lot of inexperience, trying to get used to each other, but they're a lot of positives. To score four goals is a nice thing, and by four different players."
Riebau, who has led North in goals scored the previous two seasons, was just glad to run on a field.
"It was definitely really exciting, being able to play any game because I know a lot of games have been canceled," Riebau said. "A great way to start off our year, even if it's a little cold."
Tuesday, Wuebben used two goalkeepers and made sure every player got on the field. Because there are new players and there hasn't even been one practice outdoors, he wanted to see everybody in action.
It went well, but it was only a brief vacation from what the weather has done to the spring sports season, where little is happening outside. Appleton schools were closed Wednesday due to power outages from overnight freezing rain and more snow or ice was expected Wedensday.
"Very frustrating," Wuebben said of the weather. "I've coached for a long time. You have good years and you have bad years. You can't do anything about it. This year, we're going to have to learn as we play. You can't practice set plays in the gym."
"It's been pretty hard," Riebau said of practicing inside. "We share the gym with every other sport. That kind of (stinks). We've gotten used to it."
Eventually, the winter-like weather should go away and when it does North has its eyes on a Fox Valley Association title and a state tournament appearance. The FVA should be a battle this year and when asked what she thinks about the league, Riebau says, "I think of Neenah. I hate but love playing them and I can't wait to play them again this year."
Neenah beat North in a shootout last year in a sectional final to end the Lightning's bid at a repeat state title. Riebau isn't thinking of revenge just yet, but she's confident her team will have another deep postseason run.
"I think we have a lot of potential," she said. "We are very young but we have good chemistry and I think we can go a long way. It may be a little early to know the expectations, but like any other team I expect us to do our best and see where it takes us."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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