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H.S. Soccer Focus: PIZM boys, Cotter girls pace a strong pack of southeastern Minnesota teams

Combined between the boys and girls, six teams from the area reached the state tournament a year ago. The talent is there again for another season to remember.

Class A boys state soccer: PIZM
The Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa boys soccer team thanks their supporters after their 1-0 defeat in a Class A boys soccer state semifinal Wednesday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Wildcats are hoping a return trip to state is in the works this season.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin
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Last year’s soccer season was a pretty remarkable one for the area.

Four teams on the boys side — Mayo, Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Lourdes, Byron — and two more on the girls side, Winona Cotter and Byron.

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Four of those six won at least one game at the state tournament.

This is a new year but it's hard not to think about what could be in store for area teams in the postseason.

BOYS

Top Performers

1. Bryan Islas Aguirre, Mayo: Islas Aguirre has been simply terrific for the Spartans. The senior attacker combines a great touch and control with a high soccer IQ, consistently making the correct reads. He just has a good feel for the game and with a skill set to match, he’s the gas that makes the Mayo engine go. In six games, he has already netted five goals and has six assists, recording a point in five of six contests. 

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Lourdes' Joey Lonzo (2) controls the ball during a Section 1A semifinal match against Cotter on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Rochester.
Andrew Link / Post Bulletin

2. Joey Lonzo, Lourdes: Lonzo plays a similar role to the name above him on this list in that the offensive attack would most likely be lost without him. The senior forward has had a hand in over half of the Eagles’ goals this season, dishing out six assists and scoring a pair of goals. That includes back-to-back nights with a stat line of a goal and two assists in wins over La Crescent-Hokah and Stewartville.

3. Ben Murray, PIZM: The truth is a number of PIZM players could have been selected here, but Murray gets the nod as he leads the top-five ranked Wildcats with five goals. He seems to deliver against the best, scoring the game-winner against Lourdes and finding the back of the net against ranked St. Paul Humboldt. He also scored twice against Kasson-Mantorville and averages close to two shots on goal per game.

Power Rankings

(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in. All records are up to date entering Thursday, Sept. 15.)

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Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa celebrates after winning a Section 2A boys soccer championship match against Fairmont Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at Wescott Field in Austin.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

1. PIZM (7-1-0): The Wildcats reached the program’s first state tournament a season ago, placing third in Class A. Now, PIZM is looking to make that an annual trip and so far, it seems well on its way to doing just that. The Wildcats — ranked No. 5 in Class A — beat Lourdes 1-0 on Sept. 6, thanks to the previously mentioned Ben Murray and have outscored opponents 25-2. They also knocked off top 10 St. Paul Humboldt 2-0 with the only defeat coming to the hands of another top 10 opponent in St. Paul Washington. 

2. Mayo (5-1): The Spartans are respected around the area, getting the better of Lourdes in a preseason scrimmage and have looked capable of making another postseason run. Islas Aguire is great, but so are Xavi Laack, Alec McBane and Kymani Chitulangoma. The Spartans have already beaten Section 1AAA opponents Lakeville South and Farmington with the only blemish this season coming by a 2-1 decision to intra-city rival John Marshall on Sept. 6. The Spartans are honoring longtime coach and the grandfather of Rochester soccer Dr. Charles Abboud in the coming weeks. 

The youngest of three brothers, McKaid Schotzko has followed in the footsteps of older brothers Gavan and Kilian by becoming a captain for the Lourdes boys soccer program. Now, he's hoping to do something his older brothers couldn't do, reach the state tournament multiple times.

3. Lourdes (3-2-2): Lourdes had an argument to be higher on this list until a tough loss to Lake City on Tuesday night. So that drops the Eagles down a peg. But considering the Eagles were coming off an impressive 2-1 win over the No. 1 ranked team in Class A in St. Paul Academy and playing without all-state performer McKaid Schotzko, Tuesday’s setback is understandable. Overall, it has taken the Eagles — ranked No. 10 in Class A — some time but it appears they are finding that flow coach Sean Kane wants. That was evident on Monday. Sam Theobald finished with a goal and an assist to help Lourdes overcome an early 1-0 deficit.

4. Winona (4-0-2): The Winhawks are enjoying success under first-year coach Oscar Uribe. Of course, it helps to have Teis Larsen too. He scored five of Winona’s six goals in a 6-0 win over Red Wing on Tuesday. The Winhawks also handed John Marshall it’s only loss of the season in overtime. 

5. John Marshall (4-1-1): The Rockets haven’t lost in Section 1AAA play with wins over Farmington and Mayo. Mecha Meermarew is a good one up top for coach Abdul Noor, who has done a good job of building up the program. After a shutout of Albert Lea, JM is unbeaten in its last four matches.  

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GIRLS

Top Performers

Cotter girls soccer
Cotter's Allyssa Williams dribbles the ball up the field in the first half against Minnehaha Academy on Nov. 4 during the Class A girls soccer state semifinal in Minneapolis.
Post Bulletin file photo / Alex VandenHouten

1. Allyssa Williams, Winona Cotter: Williams is just the latest goal scorer putting up eye-popping numbers for coach Marie Barrientos and the Ramblers. She already has eight goals to go along with three assists in seven games. That includes a goal and an assist against Lourdes, as well as a hat trick against Caledonia. Her and teammate Izzie Biesanz (seven goals, five assists) give Cotter a dynamic scoring duo. 

2. Amelia Gossman, Lourdes: Gossman is one of the premier goal scorers in the area. In fact, Gossman had entered Monday’s showdown with Cotter having scored in five consecutive contests. The two-time all-state performer appears to be in store for her best season yet, which is saying something. 

Makadyn Gust, a St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura junior soccer goalie, has healed from a torn labrum injury. That means the All-State player might be at an entirely new level this season.

3. Makadyn Gust, St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura: After playing through a torn labrum last season, the junior keeper is now healthy and is playing like it. She finished with 16 saves to record a clean sheet and help deliver a 1-0 victory against Section 1A rival Cotter. It was her fifth shutout of the season for Gust, who has allowed just three goals in seven games.

Power Rankings

1. Winona Cotter (6-1): Much like the Lourdes boys, the Ramblers had a tough time coming off an emotional Monday night win. This one was even sweeter, coming against rival and No. 5 ranked Lourdes by a score of 2-1. The aforementioned Williams was a big reason why with the two-point night (a goal and an assist). But, the Ramblers hit a bit of a snag on Tuesday, losing 1-0 to Gust and St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura. Expect the Ramblers to bounce back in a big way.

2. Lourdes (5-1): The Eagles — ranked No. 5 in Class A — suffered their first defeat to the Ramblers on Monday to snap a five-game win streak. That streak included four shutouts and a little bit revenge with a 4-0 win over Fairmont, which defeated Lourdes in last year's Section 2A championship. Gossman scored for the fifth straight game for Lourdes and senior defender, Grace Buntrock tallied her first career varsity goal on a breakaway verses the Cardinals.

3. Kasson-Mantorville (5-0-1): One of the only teams yet to suffer a loss, the KoMets have outscored opponents 23-5 and are coming off a nice 3-2 win on the road at Winona. That’s when Delaney Awe continued her stellar season with a goal and an assist, while Kaylee Narveson added a goal. Those two can put up numbers like they did in a 5-1 win over Lake City when they both finished with a pair of goals and two assists. 

4. St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura (6-1): The Saints are a perfect 5-0 in Section 1A and have won five in a row overall since falling to Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa. Since, SCLA has allowed just one goal.

5. Byron 4-0-2: The Bears are getting contributions from everybody it seems and join rival K-M as one of the teams yet to lose. A big match-up looms with the KoMets on Sept. 29.

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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