Whether trying to return to state or just get there, it's playoff time for west-metro soccer teams.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s Anne Arnason, right, congratulated teammate Kelly Pannek after she scored in a match earlier this season against Holy Angels. The Red Knights, seeded No. 1 in Section 6, were Class 1A runners-up in 2011. Photo by Marlin Levison • email@example.com
The similarities to 2011 are hard to ignore. Benilde-St. Margaret's girls' soccer coach Scott Helling-Christy hopes that, with one large exception, things continue to go as they did one year ago.
With a enviable mix of experience and youth amid a roster overflowing with talent, the Red Knights have been the class of Class 1A this season.
They have outscored opponents 83-4 en route to a 15-0-1 regular-season record. Benilde-St. Margaret's heads into the Section 6 playoffs, which began Tuesday, as the No. 1 seed in the section and the top-ranked team in the state.
It's reminiscent of 2011, when the Red Knights took an 18-0-3 into the Class 1A championship game before being upset by Blake.
"That is a huge motivator for us," Helling-Christy said. "The team has had a great year, but they know they can't be overconfident. They got so close last year and they want so badly to get back there."
Orono, with high-scoring midfielder Sophie Babo, earned the second seed in the section. Benilde-St. Margaret's beat Orono 5-1 in their only meeting of the season.
Here's an overview of the rest of the section pairings in the west metro for girls and boys.Girls
• Class 2A, Section 5: The No. 1 seed went to Maple Grove, but the Crimson have a formidable foe in No. 2-seeded Centennial. The teams tied 3-3 in early September.
• Class 2A, Section 6: Longtime Edina coach Simon Whitehead said Wayzata, the No. 1 seed, is the best team he had seen all year. The Trojans (11-2-2) have not given up a goal since Sept 20 in reeling off five straight shutouts. No. 2 seed Minnetonka poses a threat. It played Wayzata to draws twice this season.
• Class 1A, Section 2: This is Blake's section to lose. The defending Class 1A champion is the only team to play Benilde-St. Margaret's straight up, in a scoreless tie on Aug. 28. Second-seeded Minneapolis Washburn is a dark horse.
• Class 1A, Section 5: It would be a major upset for No. 1-seeded Totino-Grace to lose. Park Center, the No. 2 seed, lost to the Eagles 3-1 during the regular season.Boys
• Class 2A, Section 2: Rankings aside, this section is always among the most competitive in the state. Bloomington Jefferson deserves the top seed, but it would be foolish to overlook No. 2 Eden Prairie or No. 3 Edina.
• Class 2A, Section 5: On paper, top-seeded and undefeated Champlin Park looks to be a lock, but don't count out No. 2 seed Park Center. The Pirates put the only blemish on the Rebels' record, a 1-1 tie on Aug. 30.
• Class 2A, Section 5: High-scoring Elliot Cassutt leads top-seeded Minneapolis South, but the Tigers' road is bumpy. St. Louis Park, Wayzata and Minneapolis Southwest, the second through fourth seeds, are all good enough to emerge.
• Class 1A, Section 3: Many of the state's top private school programs reside here. No. 1 seeded St. Paul Academy (14-0-2) is on a collision course with No. 2 Holy Angels (11-0-2). If either falters, No. 4 Minnehaha Academy could step up.
• Class 1A, Section 5: Prairie Seeds, the 2011 Class 1A runner-up, has annihilated every team it has played. Can the 11-0 Lycans, who have scored at least six goals a game, keep up the pace as the competition gets tougher?
• Class 1A, Section 6: Waconia earned the No. 1 seed, but the nod has to go to No. 2 seed Benilde-St. Margaret's, the defending Class 1A champion.
Jim Paulsen • 612-673-7737