Anoka seeks third consecutive state title

All it took for the Anoka boys’ soccer to earn respect was a third state championship in nine seasons and the first repeat since 2010. The north metro’s muckers and grinders grabbed the top spot in the Class 2A coaches’ preseason poll. Then the season started with a humbling 4-0 loss at Minneapolis Washburn. Expect the Tornadoes to regroup and play the team-oriented brand of soccer that won the past two state titles. All-state senior goalkeeper Jake Peterson must direct a rebuilt back line. Up front, Anoka returns scoring punch with a trio of all-Northwest Suburban Conference players in forwards Blake Doyea and Donny Guimont and midfielder Miguel Martinez.

Eagan under construction

Eagan’s drive for a third consecutive Class 2A girls’ state title depends on many players not old enough to have a license. Only five players who saw action in the championship game return. The roster features the same number of sophomores (nine) as juniors and seniors combined. Talk of rebuilding, however, seems premature. Eagan, No. 1 in the preseason coaches’ poll, started the season 3-0, outscoring opponents by a combined 11-0. One of those victories came against then-No. 4 Minnetonka.

Red Knights girls reload

Injury wiped out the 2015 seasons for Benilde-St. Margaret’s forwards Vivian Shinall and Claire Van Der Heide. The defending Class 1A champion Red Knights welcome their return after graduation claimed the top two scorers. They combined for three goals in a 5-0 season-opening victory against Breck. The roster also features all-conference honorable-mention selections Maren Noble (midfield) and Maddie Stoks (defender) plus state-tournament-tested goalkeeper Claire Grazzini.

New-look Orono

Class 1A boys’ champion Orono must replace seven starters from the first title team in program history. The four stalwarts leading the way — defenders Connor Hasselman and Brandon Hunt, forward Guy Mohs and midfielder Spencer Overturf — bring a combined 10 years of varsity experience. The Spartans opened their season with a scoreless draw against Breck in a rematch of the 2015 state championship game.

Back downtown, at new site

High school soccer players will be the first prep athletes to use new U.S. Bank Stadium. After two years in St. Cloud, the state tournament semifinals and finals return to downtown Minneapolis. Anticipation goes beyond the field. The Minnesota State High School League projects netting more than $75,000 in revenue, the highest figure in more than a decade. At the end of the school year, a percentage of the league’s surplus will go back to schools to offset state tournament costs.