Bemidji's Aidan Helwig (8) and Ethan Mock(4) celebrate Helwig's second goal scored in the Lumberjacks' 3-1 victory over Holy Angels in the Class 1A semifinals Tuesday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo: Richard.Tsong-Taatarii * Richard.Tsong-Taatarii@startribune
CLASS 2A BOYS
Stillwater (18-1-2) vs. Duluth East (19-0-2)
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday
Stillwater at glance: The perennially powerful Ponies are making their third consecutive state championship game appearance. They wo the title in 2016, their third overall. Team leaders Spencer Scott and Logan Huber played on the 2016 team and are savvy players who succeed with their heads as much as their feet. They excel at set pieces, scoring both of their goals in the semifinals on free kicks. The defense has been stingy all season, giving up less than a goal per game. Mistakes are few, forcing opponents to capitalize on rare opportunities they get.
Duluth East at a glance: After reaching the semifinals a year ago, the No. 1-seeded Greyhounds are in the championship game for the first time. The family of forward William Francis, the team’s leading goal scorer, moved to suburban Cincinnati before the season, but Francis stayed behind, hoping to lead the team to the title. He’s got a finisher’s mentality and rarely misses a scoring opportunity. Midfielder Seth Hoffman, a Class 2A Mr. Soccer finalist, is strong with the ball at his feet and goalkeeper Oliver Hasler sets the tone in net, both through his stellar play and his preparation.
CLASS 2A GIRLS
Minnetonka (15-4-1) vs. Wayzata (17-3)
When: 3 p.m. Friday
Minnetonka at a glance: Rest your fortunes on an overtime shootout? No problem for Minnetonka, which won its first two state tournament games in that manner. Face a Wayzata team that won the teams’ previous two meetings? Doesn’t faze the Skippers, who beat Eden Prairie in the section final despite two earlier losses. “Our team has faced a lot of adversity throughout the season,” senior midfielder Grace Weisman said. “We know what it’s like to be down a goal; we know what it’s like to be up a goal. It’s just about game management and keeping your head straight throughout everything.”
Wayzata at a glance: Coach Tony Peszneker said Wayzata’s semifinal victory wasn’t his team’s best game. There are higher standards for a program seeking its fourth state championship in 10 seasons. As for Minnetonka, Peszneker said, “We both know each other. I’m sure it’s going to be a battle as it was in our previous two outings.” Senior midfielder Elizabeth Page said her team isn’t relying on its earlier performances. “We’ll be prepared to play them and we’re not going to be thinking too much about what’s happened in the past,” Page said. “We’re only going to worry about what we can do to win the game on Friday.”
DAVID LA VAQUE
CLASS 1A BOYS
Blake (18-1-2) vs. Bemidji (19-2-1)
When: 12:30 p.m. Friday
Blake at a glance: Just how deep is Blake’s scoring? Well, the Bears have played their top scorer this season, senior Jaluk Ercan-Fang, at the center-back position in the playoffs. He has 15 goals this season. But the Bears got goals from three different players in the semifinal victory, including one from junior Will Mortenson, who also scored the lone goal in the quarterfinals.
Bemidji at a glance: The unseeded Lumberjacks are the tournament’s surprise story, defeating No. 3 Mahtomedi 1-0 in the quarterfinals and No. 2 Holy Angels by a 3-1 score in the semifinals. Their offense runs through junior Silas Hess, with a team-leading 21 goals including one in each tournament victory. Junior Aidan Helwig scored two goals against the Stars and assisted on Hess’s goal.
HEATHER RULE, PAUL KLAUDA
CLASS 1A GIRLS
Mahtomedi (14-5-1) vs. Orono (18-2-1)
When: 10 a.m. Friday
Mahtomedi at a glance: Holy Angels coach David Marshak praised the defending state champion Zephyrs after the semifinals. “The thing that Mahtomedi does is their movement off the ball,” he said. “They move into space, so if you are not completely switched on, they’re away from you. They are the best team we’ve seen this year as far as that movement off the ball.”
Orono at a glance: This the Spartans’ fourth championship game since they won it in all in 2014. It’s also a rematch of last year, when they lost 2-1 to the Zephyrs. Ms. Soccer finalist Sarah Johnston leads the team with 20 goals this season, followed closely by junior Anna Tesar. Orono trailed in the semifinal against Benilde-St. Margaret’s before two quick goals gave them the lead.
DAVID LA VAQUE, HEATHER RULE