The adapted soccer state tournament will be Friday and Saturday at Stillwater High School. Competition features two divisions — cognitively impaired (CI) and physically impaired (PI) — with eight teams in each. Championship games will be Saturday afternoon.
Here is a look at some of the teams in contention:
Park Center Pirates CI (8-1-0)
Players to watch: Park Center enters the state tournament with a one-two punch offense in Kevin Hofer and Tasha Feigh. Hofer’s 56 goals in 2013 has him one score shy of 100 career goals in just his second year. Feigh has added 143 career assists to the Pirates’ attack. “Kevin is an incredible athlete; you can watch him and watch him and still not figure out what he just did,” Coach Kelli Waalk said.
Park Center’s offense isn’t its only strength. Goalkeeper Aaron Clark emerged just in time, anchoring a 13-2 victory in the playoffs over South Suburban in his first start as the Pirates’ keeper. Defenseman Tyler Jensen adds talent to the back end as well. Waalk said the junior is the most improved player on the team.
Did you know? Despite having only nine players on the roster, the Pirates have outscored opponents 106-33 heading into the state tournament.
Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville CI (11-0-1)
Players to watch: Coach Shawn Tatge’s team comes into the tournament with a new look, boasting a high-powered offense. The charge is led by center Brayan Estrada Martinez, who has racked up 33 goals and 33 assists on the season. Logan Dougherty, with 11 goals and 19 assists, and newcomer Manny Desouza ( 13 goals, 22 assists) have added to the balanced attack.
Michael Burns has racked up 36 goals and 31 assists from his center defenseman position. “He’s got a nonstop motor, he just goes, goes, goes. That’s why we put him where he is, he keeps the ball down in the offensive zone,” Tatge said.
Flanking Burns on defense are Jeremy Owens and Daniel Cline. Both are new additions to the back end. They have helped Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville record six shutouts this season.
Did you know? Despite Tatge’s team losing all three defensemen from last year, the coach said he believes his team has the skill to make a push to the finals.
Dakota United Hawks PI (10-0)
Players to watch: Anthony Vervais has anchored the Hawks’ defense with 67 saves in goal. The senior has allowed only one goal, which came on a penalty kick. Coach Lorrie Buecksler said Vervais will be missed: The Hawks, the 2012 runner-up, gave up a total of 16 goals this season. Having a good defense has helped. Cullen McConnell and fellow defensive specialist Liz Kimmes have kept teams from getting too many open looks.
Grayson Nicolay drives the offense with 29 goals and 19 assists.
“He’s fast, he’s smart and he shoots very accurately, but better than that, he is very generous. He will work his darndest and sweat buckets getting the ball everywhere it needs to be and setting people up,” Buecksler said. The Hawks’ second-leading scorer is eighth-grader Riley Wisniewski, with 23 goals and 11 assists.
Did you know? In Buecksler’s first year coaching the Hawks, her team is 10-0. She credits her team’s chemistry and ability to play together. “They are like a family, they absolutely care about each other,” Buecksler said.
Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound-Westonka (PI) (6-0)
Players to watch: In a shortened schedule, Tyler Sarff more than matched his point total from last year, scoring 25 goals and 10 assists for the Robins, the five-time defending champions. Joe Dubisar added 13 goals and eight assists as the duo accounted for 38 of the team’s 68 goals this season.
Coach Marcus Onsum said another team strength has been reliable goaltending from first-year players Jeremy Jost and Jimmie Flores. The two split time early, but Flores took command, allowing only five goals on nearly 80 shots on goal.
Tiffany Graff has been a seasoned veteran on defense, helping others learn the position while solidifying the back end of the court. Onsum added that sophomore Jordan Klein, in his fourth year on the team, stepped up as a leader. “He’s really started to step up, calming the team down when he’s needed to, and directing traffic,” Onsum said.
Did you know? With four seniors graduating last year, Onsum’s squad has developed as a dangerous young team. In a truncated season, the team has allowed only nine goals.