Three goals to start the season: Get 90 or more athletes to be part of the program, finish in the top three of the Northwest Suburban Conference and make it to state. The Park Center boys’ soccer team can check off all three of those boxes.
“The guys have been pretty laser-focused on those goals this year,” fourth-year coach Sean McNattin said.
As a bonus, they’re not done yet.
The Pirates (13-4-2, 8-3-2 conference) head to the Class 2A state tournament searching for their first state title. Their only previous state trip was in 2004.
“Over 10 years we haven’t been to the state tournament,” senior forward Sam Moses said. “It feels amazing. Love it.”
The No. 1 seed in Section 5 beat Mounds View 3-1 on Tuesday for the section championship. Moses scored two goals. On his second goal, Moses “just shot it, scored,” he said.
A simple description, but Moses, previously a defender, hit his stride as a goal scorer this season. He moved to forward and tallied 19 goals and 13 assists.
“He’s really had a breakout year,” McNattin said. “He can create all sorts of havoc for a lot of teams.”
Park Center scored 50 goals this season vs. the 22 it allowed.
Defense is the key to the Pirates’ game, as they’ve done a good job of slowing down opponents with strong attack games, McNattin said. Craig Kaizer, with his speed, and Brenton Brakke, who’s very good in the air, are two of the team’s anchors, their coach said. He added that Alex Zolnosky and Fuad Tahir are a couple of the team’s biggest performers as well, creating challenges for opponents.
The Pirates had a lot of returning players from last season. That experience perhaps came in handy during the first 10 games of the season, when they played a tough schedule filled with nonconference opponents such as Mounds View and Minnetonka.
“From the beginning, we knew we had a better team than we thought we were going to have,” McNattin said.
That better team rattled off seven wins in a row during that early stretch. The Pirates ended the regular season with a tie and a two losses in their final three matches but got their energy back up for sections, McNattin said.
Now about those three goals. Park Center drew about 100 soccer players. That created five teams, a number the Pirates never had before, McNattin said. Some were athletes the coaches didn’t even know about.
“Guys that just lived in the area but never came out for soccer before,” McNattin said. “Even though some of them haven’t played a lot of structured soccer before, they’re athletes.”
Park Center finished behind Andover and Anoka in the conference. Winning a conference title was never the goal, McNattin said, but finishing in the top three “is a huge accomplishment.”
“It helps with promoting the school,” McNattin said. “That means more to these guys than anything else.”
Then there’s that last one, making it to state. As the Class 2A, Section 5 champions, they’ve already done that. Still, their coach said before the section final game that if they win, the Pirates have as good of a chance as any team at a state title.
His players are thrilled for the chance.
“The fact that it’s my senior year and we’re going to state, and I had a big part to do with it,” Moses said. “Just give God thanks for that.”