Fast start brings respect to Minneapolis Southwest boys' soccer

  • Article by: JIM PAULSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 10, 2013 - 5:39 PM

Minneapolis Southwest’s boys’ soccer team is garnering respect for its impressive 5-0 start this fall.

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Minneapolis Southwest’s Zachary Neiberger (13) battled to head the ball against Minneapolis South’s Oscar Campbell during the Lakers’ 3-1 victory Saturday.

Photo: Photos by MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com,

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In wilting heat and under a steady stream of planes headed to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the Minneapolis Southwest boys’ soccer team took full advantage recently of a bit of recent respect thrown its way.

The soccer players practiced on half of the football field, sharing space with the football team.

It was a small victory for a program that had earned a notable degree of recognition.

When the Minnesota High School Soccer Coaches Association state polls were released on Labor Day, the Lakers — who improved to 5-0 with a 3-1 victory over archrival Minneapolis South on Saturday — were ranked No. 1 in Class 2A.

The last time Southwest was No. 1 was 1991, when coach Jamie Plaisance was a senior forward on the team.

“It says that the people in the high school soccer community are aware that we have a good team,” Plaisance said. “Anybody would be lying if they told you they didn’t want that kind of recognition.”

The ranking felt a bit sweeter considering the turbulent season the Lakers had in 2012. Southwest was expected to be among the top soccer programs in the metro, only to have the season collapse amid injuries and discontent.

“Last year, our team chemistry wasn’t there,” said defender Taylor Funk, who shares team captaincy with attacker Diego Rios. “This year, things are different. Everyone is supportive of each other. We’re competitive in practice; when it’s over, we’re good friends again.”

It’s not as if Southwest suddenly has made the jump elite status. The Lakers have long represented Minneapolis Conference soccer well. They have made seven trips to the state tournament. In 2010, they were undefeated and advanced to the Class 2A state championship game before falling to Apple Valley. They advanced to the state semifinals the next season.

The program’s success is frequently cited as a primary source of motivation for the 2013 team.

“The pride at Southwest is unbelievable,” Plaisance said. “They really want to represent the school and the city. It’s not 17, 18 guys getting together to kick a soccer ball. There’s a purpose behind it.”

For much of the team, playing for Southwest is about more than the here and now. Former players routinely come back and support the team. Little brothers grow up watching and thinking about the day they’ll don the purple and white.

“I remember back in fourth grade when my brother was a sophomore on the team,” Funk said. “They asked me to be a ball boy. They were playing Edina. Someone scored a goal from, like, 35 yards out. As soon as I saw that, I said ‘I want to do that some day.’ ”

The players realize they have yet to accomplish anything tangible. They’ve also discovered that rankings can be fickle. Despite winning twice since being ranked No. 1, the most recent set of polls saw Southwest slip to No. 2, behind Edina.

That, Plaisance said, might be a good thing.

“Being No. 1 is nice, but it doesn’t help you reach your goals,” Plaisance said.

It doesn’t take away from the Lakers being thought of as the best team in Class 2A, if only for a week.

  • related content

  • Minneapolis Southwest’s Diego Rios, left, and Both Kueth celebrated after Kueth scored a goal in the first half against Minneapolis South. The Lakers are off to a 5-0 start.

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Atlanta - WP: E. Stults 4 FINAL
Detroit - LP: J. Chamberlain 2
Washington - LP: X. Cedeno 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Wacha 6
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 18
Baltimore 6 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Miami - LP: D. Haren 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: R. Montero 7
San Diego 6 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
San Francisco 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 8
Colorado 2 FINAL
Oakland 11
LA Angels - LP: N. Tropeano 3 FINAL
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 5
Cleveland 4 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
Kansas City 11 FINAL
Texas 7
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Arizona 2
Toronto 7 FINAL
Houston 4
Minnesota - LP: C. Johnson 2 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Masterson 14
Boston 116 FINAL
Charlotte 104
LA Lakers 113 FINAL
Philadelphia 111
Houston 96 FINAL
Toronto 99
Milwaukee 88 FINAL
Atlanta 101
Sacramento 83 FINAL
Memphis 97
Utah 104 FINAL
Minnesota 84
Phoenix 86 FINAL
Portland 109
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Montreal 3
Vancouver 4 FINAL
St. Louis 1
Calgary 5 FINAL
Dallas 3
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Chicago 4
Edmonton 4 FINAL
Colorado 1
Buffalo 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
ULM 58 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 65
Dayton 70 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 91
(6) Tennessee 48 FINAL
(4) Maryland 58

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