St. Paul Academy wanted it to happen the past couple of years. A pandemic wiped out the postseason in 2020, and then last year's loss in the section final meant no state championship for the Spartans.
"Then this year … there was some mentality switch," said St. Paul Academy senior Cooper Bollinger-Danielson. "I've played on a lot of teams, soccer teams throughout my life. And for some reason, this team has something truly special."
That "truly special" team completed a dominant postseason Friday by winning the program's fifth state title. Fourth-seeded St. Paul Academy (14-3-3) defeated unseeded St. Anthony Village 2-0 Friday night at U.S. Bank Stadium in the Class 1A boys' soccer championship game, capping a state tournament during which it outscored opponents 14-0.
The Spartans took a 2-0 lead into halftime with goals about eight minutes apart. First, Bollinger-Danielson pounced on a rebound right in front of the wide-open net for his team-leading 24th goal of the season. Off a corner kick, senior Nathan Cohen extended the lead, with senior Yash Kshirsagar getting the assist.
St. Paul Academy had its chances to extend the lead in the second half — including a penalty kick that hit off the post.
The Spartans didn't surrender a goal throughout the postseason. They ended their season with six consecutive shutouts, outscoring opponents 24-0 in that span. Their last goal allowed was to Minnehaha Academy in a 4-2 victory Oct. 8. Coach Max Lipset credited junior goalkeeper Cooper Olson, who played all but 25 minutes this season, and Cohen as a center back who also scored twice in the state tournament, for the solid defense.
"I'm very thankful for the defenders I have," Olson said. "In the past two, three games that we played, they really did a lot of the work for me. I had maybe one or two shots, but in reality they did a lot for me.
"It's good to have confidence as a goalkeeper, but it's also good to appreciate your defenders."
St. Paul Academy won four state titles from 1986-94, but the program hadn't appeared in a state championship game since 2012. The Spartans finished the season on a 12-game unbeaten streak. Their last loss came Sept. 17 at Breck.
St. Anthony Village (12-7-2) finished as state runner-up in its first state tournament trip.
"From the very beginning, we didn't expect to get this far," junior Alan Molina said. " 'It would be great if we just make state.' And then, 'It'll be great if we make it to the semifinals.'
"It was just a great experience."