MANKATO – About 17 years ago, Mankato West girls soccer coach Crissy Makela and her husband Rick decided to become Godparents to the Joyal family's newest member, daughter Danielle. Danielle's father, Todd, and Rick Makela had been best friends at East High School so it seemed like a no-brainer.
Fast-forward to this weekend and little Danielle is now a junior on the Mankato East girls soccer team. The Cougars took on local rival Mankato West at Thomas O. Anderson Fields, and the Scarlets continue to be coached by her Godmother, Crissy.
The East-West games are emotionally charged as it is, and the relationship between Joyal and Makela doesn't make it any easier. Both, however, have learned to cope.
“I've watched her grow up and she's a great young lady,” coach Makela said. “She's a very solid player for the East team. When we play them I'm happy for her if she scores a goal or gets an assist, but it's bittersweet because it's against us,”
Joyal, who has done some babysitting for the Makelas over the years, has a similar take: “Everybody on both sides is doing their best to win. I'll go up and talk to her after the game. If we win she won't be happy but if they win she'll be fine. Either way it's understandable.”
On Saturday afternoon it was the Makela-led West team that came out victorious in the annual Pack the Stands game. The Scarlets (6-5, 2-3 in Big Nine) received two goals from Maddie Burandt and another from Aisha Abdo to record a 3-1 victory. The win avenged a 3-0 loss to East earlier this season.
“We've really worked on our defense since that first game,” said West's Hannah Fox, who finished with two assists. “We moved some players around and we've had time to work together and it seems to have helped.”
West goalie Katie Lauer agreed: “We've gelled a lot as a team. We're much better defensively than we were at the start of the year. We moved Sarah (Buryska) back and that's helped solidify our D.”
Lauer and her counterpart, Emily Flaherty, each faced eight shots on goal. The teams were tied 1-1 at the half before Abdo scored at the 53:14 mark with a wide-open shot from the top of the box. Burandt capped the scoring with a close-in score with just 1:07 left in the game.
“We had some people missing but I liked the way some of the other girls stepped up for us today,” East coach Akram Osman said. “I was very encouraged by some of the things I saw.”
The Cougars (5-6, 2-4) were without the services of Sydney Halbur and Amanda Broman who are nursing concussions They were also without leading scorer Rebekah Kolstad who had a previous hockey commitment.
Lizzy Vetter scored the lone goal for East with an assist from Bailey Kanstrup.
“It was a good game, Osman said. “We look forward to playing them again.”