Looking back, perhaps losing a regular season soccer game would have been a good thing for the Edina boys and Champlin Park girls.
The Hornets (19-0) and Rebels (17-0-1) enter this week’s Class 2A state tournament as the No. 1 seeds. Each went through the regular season without one of those losses that coaches often welcome to relieve pressure and regain focus.
“I’ve definitely thought about that,” said Keith Pavelka, first-year Champlin Park coach. “But this team took the challenge of building every game to heart.”
The Rebels, state tournament newcomers, play Stillwater at 5:30 Tuesday at North St. Paul High School. Edina takes the field 24 hours later against Maple Grove at St. Cloud State.
Victory sends each team to the semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. No consolation bracket means a loss would bring their brilliant seasons to unceremonious endings.
Edina coach Dave Jenson said, “This team had a maturity that helped them stay grounded. They respect the game and there hasn’t been a game they haven’t shown up for.”
Depth of skill means an off night by any one player won’t derail either team. For Champlin Park, players such a Megan Carlson, Mallie Mathis, Julia Sullivan and Paige Kalal provides “multiple points from where we can attack,” Pavelka said.
They are backed by holding midfielders Allison Hartig and Grace Marshalek. Pavelka called Marshalek “our MVP. She works tirelessly all game. And she starts our attack. If this were hockey, she’d have 15-20 second assists.”
At Edina, hockey is the school’s best-known athletics export. A common thread exists in past hockey glories and success this fall: talented players adept at their roles.
Mr. Soccer finalist Will Swanda controls the middle of the field. Senior forward Valentin Correlajo scored a goal in all three section playoff games. Casey Ott and Henry Rose are dependable scorers. Jenson called Eddy Rosenthal his “secret weapon,” a versatile player who can attack from anywhere.
Superstition is Jenson’s other weapon. Lunch on game day is always a focaccia roll with peanut butter from Great Harvest Bread Company. And he dons a New England Patriots T-shirt on the sidelines, one designed by wide receiver Julian Edelman that reads, “Bet against us.”
Alive and kicking
Three of the four Mr./Ms. Soccer recipients are poised for state tournament success: Paige Peltier of Cretin-Derham Hall and Minneapolis Washburn’s Darley Florvil in Class 2A, and Conor O’Rourke, the top player for undefeated Holy Angels (18-0-1) in Class 1A.