Apple Valley's boys' soccer team is out to regain the success it fell away from with its 6-loss season in 2011.
Apple Valley defenseman Jordan Charles made a stop in front of goalkeeper Avery Veldhouse during the Eagles’ recent victory over Bloomington Kennedy. The Eagles started the season 6-0. Photo by Jerry Holt • firstname.lastname@example.org
As the only coach in the program's 34-year history, Chuck Scanlon prepared Tuesday afternoon for a milestone game in boys' soccer, the 700th contest in Apple Valley High School history.
Scanlon was unaware of it until a week earlier, when stat guru and assistant volleyball coach Jeff Groves notified him of the number. It's been a victory-drenched blur.
"It's gone by in a hurry. I didn't even really notice it," said Scanlon, the winningest soccer coach in Minnesota. "Seems like we just started yesterday."
Even with the milestone in mind, it was business as usual for the Eagles. Scanlon was more concerned about the temperature that day and how the boys need to stay hydrated for their first South Suburban Conference game. They defeated Bloomington Kennedy 6-0 behind two goals by Kevin Conway.
Scanlon coached football for two years until the soccer program got going in 1978. He has since compiled a 539-95-47 record through Tuesday's contest, including nine state championships.
After two undefeated season in 2009 and 2010, including back-to-back Class 2A state championships, the Eagles finished with a 12-6 record last season and were eliminated by the state runner-up Eastview Lightning in the section semifinals.
What passed for a down year at Apple Valley would be looked upon as exceptional by most other Minnesota high school programs. But to captain Jordan Charles, it was the unfamiliar pain of losing, even for just a handful of games.
"It was kind of a culture shock," said Charles, who is the centerpiece to the Eagles' defensive core back at sweeper. "Especially the standard that our coaches set and that we set as a team, it was difficult."
But that's the reality of Apple Valley's annual expectation surrounding the boys' soccer program. The Eagles are here to play. They're here to win.
"You're going from the frying pan into the fire and you have to be ready all the time. Those are the expectations that are set for everybody," Scanlon said.
It appears they are back to challenge for conference, section and state prominence once again.
Led by Charles and fellow captains Connor Flanagan and Mitch Dawson, the Eagles have begun the year 6-0, averaging 4.67 goals per game through Tuesday night. Last year the Eagles had two returning starters. This year they're returning eight -- a difference-maker -- and carrying 15 seniors on the roster, although there are still many new faces on the varsity field.
The shifty Flanagan brings speed and quickness at striker. He scored a hat trick before school even started. Dawson, formerly at center midfield, is now up front with Flanagan. He complements Flanagan nicely, helping add a scoring punch that was lacking last season.
"Mitchell's just kind of the force," Charles said. "He can just barrel right through guys and keep going."
Charles, a quick, perceptive defender, also has changed positions, moving from outside back to sweeper as the second to last line of defense.
The Eagles may look better, but so do many other teams in the state, most specifically in the South Suburban Conference. Apple Valley will get tested again this week with rivalry games against Burnsville and Eastview.
But the expectation remains.
"We expect to go to state," Charles said. "Even after that, we expect to make some noise there, too, and do some damage. We might have some tough competition in the section, but by the end of the season, we'll be ready for it."