Published May 26, 2024

Written By: Jenny Ellis
Photography: Jason Morales Ortiz



 Marking a Promising Start to WPSL Northern Conference Play


Nationally ranked (#13) Minnesota Thunder topped Joy AC, 2-0, in the WPSL’s Northern Conference season opener to kick off it’s league play with a win. The game took place on Thursday night at 7:00pm (CST) at the Thunder’s home ground, Providence Academy, in Plymouth, Minn. 

Kaitlyn MacBean, 14, Minnesota Thunder Scores Brace in Win Over Joy AC (Jason Morales Ortiz)

Kaitlyn MacBean, a forward from Penn State, scored both goals for Thunder – her last one coming in the 90’ minute to shut down any momentum from Joy AC which was eager to tie the match in the dying minutes of the game.  

The two teams last met in 2023 at Joy’s home field, with Thunder dominating the match to come away with a 9-1 victory. Last year’s defeat, still fresh in the minds of both Joy AC’s players and Head Coach, Brian Kallman, brought hope for an improvement in performance this year in the 2024 season. 

“We [Joy AC] scheduled the two toughest opponents, the first two games of the season, and we knew that it was going to be hard,” Kallman said. “You know, hopefully we can come in, and we can still get a point tonight. We have some good keepers. And we've added depth on defense.”

Kallman’s adjustment of his players, particularly with bringing on new keeper Mallorie Benhart, proved effective. Benhart played all 90 minutes of the match, performing brilliantly in the net. Benhart dominated the six-yard box on corner kicks and made numerous critical saves for Joy AC to hold off the Thunder when it came out with a high tempo of play and fierce intensity for the first 10 minutes of the game. 

 Mallorie Benhart, 0, Joy AC Collects Save Against Minnesota Thunder (Jason Morales Ortiz)

Joy AC conceded only one goal in the first half in the 13’ minute when MacBean scored her first, assisted by Rilyn Rintoul, making it 1-0, after a quick sequence of passing by Thunder leading to a deflection off of Benhart.   

The first half of the game was dominated by the Thunder on almost all fronts. It maintained primary possession of the ball and controlled both the momentum and direction of play – managing to keep Joy AC in its defensive half with few opportunities moving forward. 

Thunder’s players quickly moved the ball around the field with sharp passing and purposeful first touches, leaving Joy AC to chase the ball for almost 45 minutes. 

Yet, although Thunder commanded the field throughout the first half, it was unable to break through Joy AC’s backline – a credit to the coaching adjustments in Kallman’s tactics that improved upon last year's game. 

“We just have to take care of the ball when we get it [and] minimize our turnovers,” Kallman said. “We're going to have to have some good one-on-one defending. I think we just kind of need to stay together, try to make them play through us and, and not down the lines and not behind us.”

In the second half of the game, the intensity Thunder started the game with seemed to drop off. Whether this was due to fatigue or other factors, the release of major pressure opened the door for Joy AC to organize and work its way back into the game.  

The game then fell into a more evenly matched rhythm, with Joy AC and the Thunder both maintaining possession equally and working the ball around both sides of the field. 

Neither team found the back of the net with limited chances in the final third, essentially canceling each other out in any major attacking moves for much of the second half.  

The Thunder’s second goal came in the 90’ minute with MacBean, netting her brace assisted by Ashley Thurk, a low driven shot inside the box, slipping past the gloves of Benhart.    

Although this final score held, forcing a loss upon Joy AC as it starts its season, this year’s scoreline against Thunder tells a different story for the team.

This defeat, narrow in comparison to last year's eight goal loss, marked a major development in Joy AC’s performance against one of its toughest opponents for the 2024 season. Giving promising potential for further improvement upon its 3-4-2 record in 2023. 

Joy AC will play again this weekend, facing another difficult opponent to last year’s runners-up in the National Championship, Salvo SC on Sunday, May 26 at 7:00pm (CST).

With its first win under its belt, Minnesota Thunder will move on to play away at Bethany Lutheran Soccer Stadium against Mankato United SC on Friday, May 31 at 7:00pm (CST).