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.”