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16 teams put it on the line

By Star Tribune, 10/30/11, 10:32PM CDT


Come Thursday evening, the state champions will be crowned in Class 2A and 1A boys' and girls' soccer.

Taylor Brownrigg (in white) has helped lead the Lakeville North girls’ team to an 18-0-2 record and the top seed in Class 2A girls. The Panthers’ semifinal opponent is Wayzata at 6 p.m. Monday.

The high school soccer state tournament resumes Monday with six semifinal games at the Metrodome. The day begins with Class 1A boys and finishes with 1A and 2A girls. The 2A boys play their semifinals on Tuesday. Here are some notes and observations:

Wake-up call

Since becoming a full-time varsity program last season, Prairie Seeds Academy has not lost a boys' match. Perhaps more impressive than the overall 38-0-3 record is that the team has allowed more than three goals just once.

Oh, and there's this: 38 victories, 23 shutouts.

But the top-seeded Lycans aren't immortal. That much was certain in last week's quarterfinal match against St. Paul Humboldt. Prairie Seeds broke down defensively, allowed soft goals and needed a pair of penalty kicks to defeat the Hawks 4-3 in sudden-death overtime.

Is it the writing on the wall for a new state champ, or a much-needed wake-up call?

"Our guys need to realize that any team on their best can win," Lycans coach Youssef Darbaki said. "We need to be cautious, do the right things, and we will be that team."

Prairie Seeds lost just two seniors off last year's squad but on Monday takes on a fourth-seeded Rochester Lourdes team that played No. 2 seed Benilde-St. Margaret's tough in a 2-1 loss earlier in the season.

"We're motivated," senior Ismaila Jome said. "We're confident. We've done this before, and I would say we're better this year and can get better still."


Lakers find right mix

Some of the best advice Minneapolis Southwest boys' coach Jaime Plaisance received came from longtime Wayzata girls coach Tony Peszneker.

"It sounds bad, but you can't put too much emphasis on the regular season with all the highs and lows," Plaisance said. "You use it more to experiment."

Four Lakers playoff victories by a combined score of 13-2 show Plaisance made all the right moves. The Lakers returned seven starters from last season's Class 2A state runner-up team, but several of them are filling different roles this fall.

First-team all-state selection Garrett Powell switched from right back to center midfield, using his talents to slow down offenses rather than create plays. Michael Pulkrabek, a former wing, quarterbacks the offense at his new center midfield position. He scored the Lakers' first goal in a 5-1 victory against Anoka in the quarterfinals.

Liban Ayanle, whom Plaisance called the team's most versatile player, moved from center midfielder to forward during the Anoka game and responded with two goals and an assist in the second half.


Stability for the Blaze

John Soderholm is in just his second season as the Burnsville girls' coach, but he has known most of the Blaze players since their youth days when he coached their club teams.

"Some of them as far back as rec soccer when they were 4-year-olds," said Soderholm, who has a daughter and a niece on the team. "It's been fun to watch them grow."

This is the first state appearance for the Burnsville girls since 1996. Soderholm started coaching in the system that season.

"It's nice to be back," he said. "There's a lot of pressure with this, and it's been too long."


Rankings mean little

It's been a little more than two months since the State Soccer Coaches Association came out with its preseason rankings.

It's shocking how quickly they become obsolete.

Neither of the top seeds in the Class 2A state tournament -- Eastview's boys and Lakeville North's girls -- was even ranked when the first poll was released on Aug. 21.

Now each is undefeated (Eastview is 19-0-1, Lakeville North 18-0-2) and two victories from a state championship.

In fact, the boys' Class 2A semifinal bracket is a testament to the fickle nature of preseason polls. Minneapolis Southwest, at No. 2, and Eden Prairie, at No. 4, were ranked among the top four in the state, but Eastview and Maple Grove were left completely out of the rankings.

The Class 1A preseason rankings were a little more on target. All four boys' semifinalists were in the top 10, led by Prairie Seeds, which was ranked No. 1 and is the tournament's top seed.

On the girls' side, No. 1-seeded Benilde-St. Margaret's has been the top-ranked Class 1A team all season. Blake was No. 5 in the preseason poll but moved up to No. 2 in the second poll and never relinquished the spot.

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