Benilde-St. Margaret’s Anne Arnason, right, congratulated teammate Kelly Pannek after she scored last week against Holy Angels.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Soccer preview: Losses become lessons for state runners-up

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ
  • Star Tribune
  • August 27, 2012 - 12:23 AM

Revisiting last year's lone loss is regular practice for Anne Arnason. The Benilde-St. Margaret's senior captain still is trying to fully understand what happened on that day 10 months ago, and correct it.

A 1-0 loss to Blake in the Class 1A girls' soccer state championship was the only disappointment Arnason and her teammates experienced all season. The 18-0-3 record that they carried into the title game at the Metrodome seemed meaningless in the end, overshadowed by the one misstep.

"I have a DVD of the game. I've watched it quite a few times," Arnason said. "It doesn't really get any easier, but it helps me accept what happened, what went wrong."

Benilde-St. Margaret's coach Scott Helling-Christy isn't convinced anything specific went wrong in the finale. It was what Blake did right. The Red Knights were averaging four goals a game throughout the playoffs before being shut out.

"We were really surprised. We scored like over 90 goals last season, and not to score any in that game ... you have to give credit to Blake," Helling-Christy said. "But it still obviously felt like we have unfinished business there. Our primary focus is to get back there again and see what we can change."

The first adjustment will be emotional. Senior captain Dana Buckhorn admitted the team wasn't prepared for the challenges of trailing late in the game and eventually losing. The result created unfamiliar emotions that she and her teammates struggled with.

"It was a new feeling for most of us," Buckhorn said. "It was pretty tough to deal with. It didn't sink in for a while."

The Prairie Seeds Academy boys' soccer team knows the feeling. The Lycans suffered the same fate in the boys' 1A championship game. The defending champion went into the match 19-0-2, only to be upset by, coincidentally, Benilde-St. Margaret's.

Coach Youssef Darbaki embraced the defeat as a learning opportunity for his young but successful program.

"You have to lose first. Everyone knows how to win," Darbaki said. "It helps you respect opponents and referees. It's a good learning curve for everyone."

With an offseason to grow from the experience, Darbaki's players are expected by their coach to make the adjustments and be back in the championship game this year.

Benilde-St. Margaret's girls expects the same. In 2010, the team ended the season in similar fashion. The No. 1-seed Red Knights were 19-0-1 entering the state tournament and ousted in the first round in a 1-0 loss.

Once the initial shock wore off, the players were able to use the experience as motivation for 2011. Larson, Buckhorn and Haley Jerabek were a part of this turnaround. Now, as captains, they plan to finish 2012 the right way.

Playing with a target in the middle of a perfect record is old news for the trio. This matured mentality will be tested early in a much-anticipated meeting with the team that provided the pain and motivation.

Benilde opened the season Thursday with a 4-0 victory over Holy Angels in the Class 1A Showcase. The victory set up a rematch of last year's championship game against Blake at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Holy Angels.

"We've always had a little rivalry with Blake and we want to beat them," Buckhorn said. "Getting to play them right away in the season is exciting. Especially if we can get back at them."

Jason Gonzalez • 612-673-4494 Twitter: @JGonStrib

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