Wayzata senior Kylie Schwarz never earned the highest individual acclaim. Four consecutive appearances in the Class 2A girls' championship game more than made up for it.
Schwarz leads the Trojans in defense of their state title at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Metrodome against White Bear Lake. A victory would give Schwarz three state titles.
While Lakeville North's Simone Kolander, the 2011 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, and Centennial's Jenna Roering, 2012 Ms. Soccer, piled up goals, Schwarz went about her business as arguably the state's most complete player.
"I'm good friends with Jenna and Simone, and I'm super happy for them because they definitely deserve it," Schwarz said. "But I would rather have my team do well."
Schwarz, a three-time all-state and two-time all-tournament team selection, will play at Wisconsin next fall.
Schwarz is the only player on the team's roster to play in all four title games. Asked about preparing for No. 4, she said she doesn't believe in superstition but values tradition.
"Hard work is what's going to get you there," she said. "It's a team effort."
DAVID LA VAQUEAnother SPA run underway
There was a time when St. Paul Academy was the premier high school boys' soccer program in Minnesota. The team made 14 state tournament trips between 1980 and 1996, winning four state championships and finishing as runners-up on four other occasions.
Then the Spartans went 13 years without a tourney appearance until 2010. They've made it three consecutive years now, but not lost on this year's players is that Monday's 2-1 victory over St. Cloud Cathedral was the school's first victory in the Metrodome since the glory years.
"It feels great just to win here," said captain Josh Gray, whose brilliant run up the right side set up the game- winning goal. "We've been here two years in a row before this year, but we haven't won. This gives us a lot of confidence going into the finals."
JIM PAULSEN1A girls' rematch of strengths
The Class 1A girls' championship game between No. 1-ranked Benide-St. Margaret's and defending champion Blake is the match soccer followers have been waiting for.
As was the case in 2011, Benilde-St. Margaret's goes into the game undefeated and seeded No. 1 with Blake as the No. 2 seed.
The game's biggest question will be if Benilde's high-powered offense, which averages nearly four goals per game, can make a dent in a Blake defense that has 17 shutouts.
The teams met early in the season but decided nothing as the game ended in a scoreless draw, the lone blemish on Benilde-St. Margaret's 20-0-1 record.
"We have been careful never to look past the next game, but I think the matchup with Benilde is something everyone has been aware of," Blake coach Paul Menge said. "It should be a great game."
JIM PAULSENRevenge of the unseeded
Blaine finally found a way to break through the state tournament's first round. Despite entering the tournament unseeded and matched up against No. 1-seeded Champlin Park, the Bengals broke a trend of three early exits dating to 2006 with a 2-1 upset.
"It's kind of nice taking out the top seeds one by one," Blaine senior forward Mitch Boege said after defeating No. 5 seed Bloomington Jefferson 3-1 in Monday's semifinal at the Metrodome. "It feels good."
The Section 7 champion was ousted in the first round of last year's tournament by eventual champion Eden Prairie. Now the Bengals will play for the Class 2A championship against Eastview at 5:30 p.m. at the Metrodome.