It’s title match Thursday in high school soccer at U.S. Bank Stadium. A look at the matchups:
Class 1A boys
St. Thomas Academy (17-4) vs. Northfield (16-3-3), 10 a.m.
Third final for coach: Last year as the No. 1 seed, St. Thomas Academy lost in the state semifinals. This year as the No. 3 seed, the Cadets want to take care of what senior William Mayleben, who scored the game-winner in the semifinal against Blake, calls “unfinished business.” Goaltender Matthew Wahl hasn’t allowed a goal in this year’s state tournament. It’s first-year coach Noel Quinn’s third consecutive title game. The past two seasons he led the Eden Prairie girls’ team to second-place finishes.
Upset special: Northfield is the first No. 5 seed to reach the title game since soccer started seeding five teams in 2012. The Raiders got there with unrelenting pressure on Mankato West senior Jacob Makela, the Class 1A Mr. Soccer recipient. “They out-possessed us, they outworked us until the second half,” Scarlets goalkeeper Tyler Defor said. Offensively, the Raiders diversified their attack and finished their chances. Senior Matteo Lombardo scored twice.
DAVID LA VAQUE, ELLIS L. WILLIAMS
Class 1A girls
Benilde-St. Margaret’s (17-4-1) vs. Mankato West (19-2), 12:30 p.m.
Back for another: Despite graduating its four starting defenders and two leading scorers, Benilde-St. Margaret’s is back in the championship game to defend its 2015 state title. Led by Ms. Soccer finalist and Star Tribune all-metro second team player Maren Noble, the top-seeded Red Knights look to slow down a Mankato West team that is rewriting its school’s record books.
Best to first: The Scarlets have scored 90 goals this season, recorded 12 shutouts and won 19 games and their first conference championship — all program bests. To win a state championship for the first time, the Scarlets will lean on two-time all-state forward McKenna Buisman’s instant offense. She and teammate Shelby Lund have scored four state tournament goals. Goalkeeper Mel Lobitz has allowed only one goal in the postseason.
ELLIS L. WILLIAMS
Class 2A boys
Stillwater (21-0) vs. Wayzata (18-0-3), 3 p.m.
Run-and-shoot offense: Wayzata coach Dominic Duenas scouted from the stands in three games where Stillwater scored a combined 17 goals. Scoring comes from everywhere. Miguel Caravais (26 goals), Kohei Adams (19), Spencer Scott (14) and Colman Farrington (11) lead a balanced attack. “We can basically pass to anybody and expect them to score,” Adams said. The Ponies are seeking to end a title drought going back to 1996.
Choke-hold defense: The Trojans squeeze teams into submission with sound defensive play. Led by senior defender Tyler Stevens and senior goalkeeper Collin Kubinski, the Trojans have not conceded a goal in the past three games. In fairness, Stillwater leads Wayzata 13-12 in shutouts this season. A Wayzata victory would mean the first state title for the program since 2005.
DAVID LA VAQUE
Class 2A girls
Centennial (17-0-3) vs. Rosemount (17-1-2), 5:30 p.m.
Fighting Irish: The Irish, whom coach Gretchen Stramel calls “fighters,’’ have won four consecutive games after being tied in the final 10 minutes. Goalkeeper Maggie Tulay made two acrobatic saves in their 2-1 semifinal victory over Minneapolis Washburn. “She was the biggest reason we won,” said Stramel, who played for Rosemount in its most recent state tournament trip in 1997. Rosemount defeated two-time defending champion Eagan in the Section 3 finals.
Big, bad Cougars: The fifth-seeded Cougars are the most explosive team in the tournament, averaging more than four goals per game. They scored two in span of just under eight minutes in the second half of their 2-1 semifinal victory over Andover. They are also proficient at stopping the other team from scoring, with goalkeeper Anna Sveiven posting 10 clean sheets this season. The Cougars are at their best when they use their speed to move the ball up the wings and find scorers Ashley Ebeling and McKenna Gieske.
First to be first: Both teams are seeking their first state championship.