The adapted soccer state tournament takes place Friday and Saturday at Stillwater High School. Here is a look at two teams from the cognitively impaired (CI) division and one from the physically impaired (PI) division entering the tournament with unbeaten records and championship dreams.
Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville Blazing Cats (11-0-1)
Players to watch: The Blazing Cats' depth allows them to come at opponents in waves. Up front, balanced scoring starts with sophomore center Michael Burns (21 goals, 38 assists), right forward Brayan Estrada Martinez (12-18) and left forward Jonathan Harris (30-30). Potency off the bench is provided by Brendan Wong (18-27), Logan Dougherty (20-12), Carly Sprung (1-9), Natalie Larson (0-11) and Caroline Fossum (2-9). For all his team's scoring prowess, Cats coach Shawn Tatge considers senior defenders Katie Hansen, Kristine Larson, Ashley Moen and Robyn Hayrynen the Cats' "heart and soul." Goaltender Stephen Friday routinely shuts the door on opposing offenses.
Did you know? The Cats, founded in 2006, have reached the state tournament five consecutive times. This one feels special. "Assistant coach Jim Schultz believes this is our deepest team ever and says we should be in the hunt for a state title," Tatge wrote in an e-mail.
Park Center/Maple Grove/Osseo Pirates (11-0)
Players to watch: Graduation claimed four of the Pirates' top players, but hard work and unselfish play filled the voids. Augie Wodrich and wings Aaron Clark and Alex Kreidler anchor the Pirates' offense. Wodrich led the Pirates with 37 goals and 45 assists. Tasha Feigh, Kevin Hofer and Lavelle Riser-Blackman led the Pirates' tough defense. Megan Thompson and Hofer split time in net and finished the season with a combined .933 save percentage and 1.9 goals-against average. "When you lose as many good players as we did, you don't expect to bounce back like this," coach Kelli Waalk wrote in an e-mail. "We truly expected to be a .500 team this year."
Did you know? The Pirates, who placed third at state last season, hope to capture their first state title since claiming back-to-back crowns in 2008 and 2009.
Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka Robins (8-0)
Players to watch: The four-time defending state champion Robins experienced both great success and growing pains this fall. This is one of coach Marcus Onsum's largest (21 players) and youngest (13 players are sophomores or younger) teams in memory. Senior Mike Madson set the tone despite a modest output of 12 goals and four assists. Onsum called Madson "the most intense player on our team," a "fierce competitor" who is "capable of putting the entire team on his back and scoring goals in bunches when the team needs it the most." Opportunistic junior forward Tyler Sarff added 15 goals and 12 assists thanks to aggressive play near the net. Onsum calls eighth-grade forward Chaun Johnson "easily one of the best young players in PI soccer." Deft footwork, quickness and overlooked toughness helped Johnson produce 17 goals. Senior goalkeeper Charlie Wittmer remains a stingy stopper, permitting just 13 goals on 169 shots faced, for a .923 saves percentage and 1.6 goals-against average.
Did you know? This season marked the Robins' seventh consecutive conference championship and regular season without a loss.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574