Forward Cole Tetrault moves the ball in practice against teammates. He's one of nine seniors playing for St. Cloud Cathedral this season. Photo by Cole Mayer, SportsEngine
For forward Cole Tetrault and the eight other St. Cloud Cathedral seniors, each year has seen the group get closer to an elusive state tournament bid.
In 2015, Tetrault and his fellow freshmen were knocked out in the Class 1A, Section 8 quarterfinals by St. Cloud Apollo. The following season, a sophomore slump set in as the Crusaders lost in the section semifinals to West Ottertail United 1-0. And last year, the juniors advanced to the section final but fell to Bemidji 3-0.
This season, the Crusaders are determined to break through with the experience they’ve gained and there’s a lot of continuity intact.
The team returned two of its top three goal-scorers — McRay Drong and Tetrault — and is starting nine seniors. The returning experience and last year’s progress has the Crusaders believing this will be the year they break into the tourney for the first time since 2012.
Crusaders coach Alex Hess watches his team practice on Sept. 12 as they prepare for the final stretch of the regular season. Photo by Cole Mayer, SportsEngine
St. Cloud Cathedral coach Alex Hess said expectations are higher this season for his team. Noah Amundson, a midfielder, and Jackson Kent, a defender, each put up impressive numbers last season. Amundson was one of the state’s best distributors in 2017, finishing with 17 assists.
Hess has tried to maintain a balance between playing his seniors while also trying to break in the younger players.
“We have a lot of seniors that deserve time out there,” Hess said. “But there are young guys that want to come take that spot."
But the strength of St. Cloud Cathedral is its front line. That’s where Tetrault and senior midfielder Drong come in. They combined for 36 goals and 16 assists a season ago.
“Their skill level is just so helpful,” Kent said. “They help the rest of us as seniors and can really step up when we need them to.”
Jackson Kent, a senior, is one of St. Cloud Cathedral's key returners this year. He and his teammates have their sights set on winning a section title to advance to the Class 1A state tournament. Photo by Cole Mayer, SportsEngine
Tetrault has been a force for the Crusaders offense since entering the program. He led the Crusaders in scoring during his ninth-grade season and did so again as a sophomore. Last year he finished with 14 goals, giving him 43 career varsity goals heading into this season. That prowess has led to him receiving three All-Granite Ridge Conference selections and an appearance on the “St. Cloud Times” all-area team.
Hess stated Tetrault can continue to improve, including on breakaway opportunities, but he was quick to point out things Tetrault has done well.
“He puts the ball where he needs to and comes back to assist with the midfield. He’s always been great at creating for not just himself but also his teammates.”
Drong has also been a consistent offensive threat. He had 19 goals and 11 assists as a junior and was named to the Class 1A all-state second team. He’s committed to DePaul, which Hess said has allowed the senior midfielder to relax.
“A lot of our offense goes through him,” Hess said. “His vision is absolutely spectacular. He’s enjoying the game more and is focused on making the guys around him better.”
But with all of that firepower at the forward and midfield positions, St. Cloud Cathedral’s (6-3, 5-0) record has some blemishes.
After a season-opening 2-1 win over DeLaSalle, the Crusaders had a rough stretch losing three of their next four matches, with them being outscored 3.2 to 1.8 goals per game, starting with a 4-0 blowout loss to Bemidji on Aug. 25 in a rematch of the 2017 section final.
That playoff preparation also comes from facing section counterparts such as the Lumberjacks and St. Cloud Apollo during the regular season. Hess said games against higher caliber opponents can help offset a weaker conference schedule. St. Cloud Cathedral hasn’t lost a Granite Ridge Conference game since 2011 and has had just a pair of ties in that time.
“Our conference isn’t necessarily geared toward soccer,” Hess said. “But we can find some surprises sometimes. We take it seriously, but it’s not the strongest part of our schedule.”
Midfielder Noah Amundson (left) is a key distributor for the Crusaders. He finished with 17 assists last season. Photo by Cole Mayer, SportsEngine
And though the nonconference games have not been as friendly to St. Cloud Cathedral’s record, there is reason for optimism. Tetrault views those experiences as an opportunity to fix mistakes and make improvements.
"We want these flaws to be exposed now so we can fix them and play our best in sections,” he said.
The adjustments being made have shown in the win column. The Crusaders have won four straight games since their loss to St. Cloud Tech. During the streak, they’ve outscored their opponents 27-3, showing things are tightening up in the backfield. The team’s attack also has remained potent as Drong and Tetrault have already combined for 17 goals on the season.
With the regular season beginning to wane, the Crusaders can start to focus on the section tournament. With Tetrault, the team has gotten one step closer to a tourney bid each season and the team's seniors know what they must do to elevate the program.
“When people think of Cathedral, they don’t really think of soccer. They think of baseball and hockey,” Hess said. “We have a lot of talented guys on this team. If we can harness our energy and work together, state is something we can accomplish. It’s something that will excite the area and make people want to be a part of our program.”