As the Minneapolis Washburn boys’ soccer team sees it, this year must be the year.
The Millers are loaded. They returned 13 players, 85 percent of their scoring, the entire defensive back line and goalkeeper.
All this from a team that finished 12-4 last fall.
Needless to say, expectations are high. Washburn hasn’t been to state since 2015.
“They’ve said, ‘We’ve got to win it this year,’” Washburn coach Aaron Percy said.
So far, so good.
Washburn opened the season unbeaten (4-0-2) and rose to No. 1 in the coaches’ rankings after a 1-0 victory Sept. 15 at Stillwater.
Only a weather-related postponement of the Sept. 20 game at defending Class 2A champion Wayzata kept the Millers short of their goal.
“Our guys wanted to be undefeated through the first seven games,” Percy said. “With the schedule we played, they felt going undefeated would help us the rest of the season.”
They almost didn’t make it. The Sept. 13 game at Minneapolis South, which Percy called “the ultimate trap game,” almost ended in defeat. But a Washburn goal with less than 30 seconds remaining salvaged a 1-1 draw.
“We preached going in that we can’t overlook them but it’s hard because the boys knew they had Stillwater two days later,” Percy said. “They felt that the Stillwater game was where they were going to show everybody who they are.”
The Millers earned their first shutout off the season against a Ponies team averaging almost four goals per game.
Defender Jorge Rey Martinez locked down on the Ponies’ dangerous Spencer Scott and center back Otis Anderson made a run that produced the game’s only goal.
Players blasted music, laughed and enjoyed the 30-mile bus ride back to south Minneapolis. But by the time they got off the bus, players were encouraged by Percy to regroup.
“It doesn’t get any easier from here,” he said.