Stillwater’s Spencer Scott, who vied for a header in last year's state championship match against Wayzata’s Erik Williams, leads the Ponies. Star Tribune file photo: AARON LAVINSKY * firstname.lastname@example.org
Eagan soccer coach Bulut Ozturk made clear the expectation for his defending Class 2A state champion girls’ team on the first day of practice.
“There’s enough talent on this roster for back-to-back state championships,” said Ozturk, raising the bar for the Wildcats, Class 2A champs three times in the past four years.
And there’s enough of Ozturk to go around. He became the rare coach of both a girls’ and boys’ varsity program when he took on the Eagan boys’ soccer job before this fall.
Ozturk isn’t the only one taking the pulse of the state’s top boys’ and girls’ programs. Here’s a look at what the season’s first few games revealed as well as projections for what’s ahead.
On the boys’ side, Class 2A title game combatants Wayzata and runner-up Stillwater ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the coaches’ preseason poll. The Ponies then moved into the top spot after going 3-0-1 to start and scoring 16 goals.
Spencer Scott, a first-team all-state selection last season, tallied six goals and four assists. Sophomore Gora Gora added five goals, and second-team all-state selection Logan Huber helped the defense shut out three opponents.
Wayzata, meanwhile, is navigating a few key personnel changes. Junior Patrick Weah, a first-team all-state selection and key cog in the Trojans’ state title push, will miss most of the season after suffering an ACL tear.
A pleasant surprise came as Jake Ogle traded football for soccer. He joins Stuart Sain and Ethan Wagner to pace the attack.
Teams to watch include Minneapolis Washburn, which moved to third in the rankings after defeating then-No. 3 Edina and tying No. 9 East Ridge.
In Class 1A, defending champion Totino-Grace outscored Class 2A opponents Spring Lake Park and Anoka by a combined score of 13-0. Herbert Endeley (five goals) and Steevenson Lamarre (four) provided the offensive punch. Endeley, a Mr. Soccer favorite, is committed to Indiana.
Eva Bruer, left, is one of six Division I recruits on the Wayzata girls' team. Star Tribune file photo by Anthony Souffle
On the girls’ side, defending champion Eagan started 3-0-1, allowed just one goal and yet fell from No. 3 to No. 5 in the rankings. A loaded Wayzata team featuring six Division I recruits — Eva Bruer, Sam Dietrick, Lily Gilbertson, Madison Lo, Megan Malecha and Maya Turner — holds the No. 1 spot.
The Trojans started 4-0 and outscored opponents 14-0. On Tuesday, Wayzata faces No. 3 Edina, a team averaging 5.5 goals per game. The Trojans’ Bruer and the Hornets’ Sophia Boman have made verbal commitments to Minnesota.
No. 3-ranked Maple Grove also returns a host of Division I-bound players hungry to avenge last season’s championship-game loss: LJ Kolodge, Lexi Miller, Mia Omar and Maddie Rayta. In addition, Mannon McMahon has committed to play hockey at Minnesota Duluth.
But an improved Champlin Park team dealt the Crimson a 2-1 loss, meaning the Section 5 title chase could be more than just a battle between Maple Grove and No. 9 Centennial. The Cougars received an offseason boost when sophomore Khyah Harper and older sister Sadie transferred from North Branch. Khyah has verbally committed to Minnesota.
Mahtomedi, champ in Class 1A, started 3-0 and beat White Bear Lake (No. 4, Class 2A). Four Division I recruits — Lauren Heinsch, Sonia Meyer, Sydney Panek and Audrey Sexson — pace the Zephyrs.
Games to circle
The Washburn boys’ can earn consideration for the top spot by succeeding in consecutive big games taking place Sept. 15 at Stillwater and Sept. 20 at Wayzata. The latter also holds Section 6 implications.
A preview of potential girls’ section championship showdowns takes place Sept. 15, when defending Section 5 champion Maple Grove heads to Centennial. On Oct. 2, White Bear Lake treks to see Section 4 rival Stillwater.