Lakeville North’s Sydney Gelhorn (21) on the field at Edina in a game on Oct. 6. Her teammates and often opponents as well wore green ribbons in their hair in support of Gelhorn after her father died in September. Photo: Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Lakeville North junior Sydney Gelhorn hadn’t scored a goal in two years when she took her turn in the Panthers’ penalty kick rotation to decide the Class 2A, Section 1 final against rival Lakeville South.
The first shooter in the sixth round, the steady centerback traded her nerves for calm and blasted the ball past the goalkeeper. Then she began thinking about her father, Greg, who died during the season at age 47 from ALS. One round later, the Panthers clinched their eighth consecutive state tournament appearance and Gelhorn laid bare her emotion.
“I was bawling,” Gelhorn said. “I didn’t even stop crying when we went up to get our medals.
“I felt like we did it for him.”
Lakeville North faces No. 3 seed Stillwater in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Farmington High School, a rematch of a scoreless draw earlier this season that brings Gelhorn bittersweet memories. She played the Sept. 22 game one day after Greg’s death.
“I told my coach that I needed to play because I know that’s what my dad would have wanted me to do,” Gelhorn said. “My dad always told me, ‘You can’t always be the best player but you can be the hardest worker.’ I played one of the best games I ever played. Afterward, our coach named me the player of the game.”
That night and every game since, the Panthers wear green ribbons — Greg’s favorite color — in their hair in tribute.
“My friends have been amazing with the way they’ve stepped up for me,” Gelhorn said. “Being on this team is the best thing for me.”
Greg’s motto “Spread the Love” inspired more than just his daughter’s teammates. Lakeville South players, some of whom Gelhorn knows through her youth soccer days, surprised her after practice a few weeks ago with hand-made green bracelets and a box of green cookies in the shape of hearts, each with the letter G in the middle.
“I’ve been surrounded with love,” Gelhorn said.
First for 2A boys: Duluth East (17-0-2) is the first non-Twin Cities area school to earn the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A boys’ field since seeding began in 2005. The Greyhounds open against state tournament newcomer Centennial (15-3-1) at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at Chisago Lakes High School.
Free web viewing: Can’t make your favorite team’s game? No sweat. School Space Media will livestream the entire tournament. There is no charge for viewing. Find the stream at www.prepspotlight.tv.