Potential Lourdes-PIZM showdown looms in semis; Mayo, Austin draw tough matchups
HVL foes PIZM and Rochester Lourdes are seeded and would play in the semifinal if victorious in their quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Mayo is in a familiar position, while Austin looks to pull off a stunner.
Head coach: Tim Jennings
Quarterfinal matchup: No. 2 Maple Grove, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25 (Farmington High School)
State appearances: 9 (1996, 1997, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2021, 2022)
Top players: Sr. Bryan Islas-Aguirre (15 goals, 10 assists); Jr. Kymani Chitulangoma (16 goals, 7 assists); Sr. Calvin Grothey (7 goals, 6 assists); Sr. Xavi Laack (4 goals, 3 assists); Sr. Juan Ibarra (2 goals, 1 assist); Sr. Alec McBane; Sr. Noah Bestrom.
About the Spartans: It's not often a team with a 14-game win streak, with just one loss and a No. 5 QRF ranking in the class goes unseeded at the MSHSL state tournament. But that's where the Spartans find themselves. Yet, it's a familiar position as they were in last year, before defeating unbeaten and top-seeded Minneapolis Southwest in a shootout. Islas-Aguirre, who was named first-team all-state, and Chitulangoma would give any team a chance, while Mayo is also strong in the back end with McBane, Bestrom and Ben Heywood. This group seems capable of building on last year's fourth place finish, despite being unseeded again.
About their opponent: At 16 games, the Crimson (17-1) enter with a long win streak of their own. They are second in Class AAA with 4.1 goals per game, thanks to forward Chris Frantz. The senior has an eye-popping 28 goals and 19 assists in 18 games. This is the eighth state tournament appearance for Maple Grove, which has never won it all before.
Coach Jennings says: "We're disappointed not to be seeded considering we have the fourth best QRF ranking in the tournament. In the end, it doesn't really matter as all the teams in the tournament are strong and you have to play the opponent you're given. Last year, we were in a similar situation, beat the undefeated top seed in the tournament, and finished fourth and unseeded Rosemount finished second. It will be interesting to see how things play out this year. ... I've watched some Maple Grove games. They're a talented attacking team with some dangerous players who work well together. It should be an exciting game."
Head coach: Jens Levisen
Quarterfinal matchup: No. 1 Hill-Murray, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25 (Farmington High School)
State appearances: 5 (2009, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2022)
Top players: Jr. Javier Juarez, So. Leo Hernandez; Jr. Collin Berg; Sr. Dane Mitchell.
About the Packers: Austin won what better emulated a rock fight than a Section 1AA final, defeating top-seeded Winona in a shootout 1-0. Goalkeeper Mitchell made save after save, including the Winhawks first shot of the shootout. He and Austin will need to be on the top of their game against a great Hill-Murray squad.
About their opponent: No. 1 Hill-Murray (19-0) has looked unbeatable often, outscoring opponents 84-2. Sophomore midfielder Jacob Dinzeo leads the way with 23 goals and 11 assists for H-M, which is making its first state appearance since 2013 and has never won in four previous state trips.
Coach Levisen says: "We hit a point in the season where we were 3-9-1. But we didn't over-analyze it and we had close games. We would ask ourselves, 'Are we getting better? Yes or no? We did all we could today and we'll be ready for tomorrow.' ... The ball just started to roll."
PINE ISLAND/ZUMBROTA-MAZEPPA WILDCATS
Head coach: Rafal Konik
Quarterfinal matchup: St. Anthony Village, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27 (Kuhlman Field, Edina)
State appearances: 2 (2021, 2022)
Top players: Sr. Jason Ryan (59 saves, 6 goals allowed in 640 minutes); Sr. Brandt Konik (7 goals, 11 assists); So. Lucas Sems (9 goals, 6 assists); Sr. Carter Christopherson (11 goals, 3 assists); Jr. Christopher Tree (7 goals).
About the Wildcats: PIZM has been dominant at times, rivaling last year's team that finished third in Class A in the program's first state tournament. With solid midfielders, controlling possession and Jason Ryan in goal, PIZM has allowed just six goals all season. It had zero trouble in a 3-0 win over St. Peter in the Section 2A title game.
About their opponent: St. Anthony (10-6-2) is playing in its first state championship and was won three games in a row.
Coach Konik says: "We are very excited to be ranked No.2. This is great recognition by the Minnesota coaches to select us in that spot. This is the first time in PIZM boys history that we have been ranked that high, so now we have to live up to the expectations. The whole community and players are very excited about this time of year. It should be fun."
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Head coach: Sean Kane
Quarterfinal matchup: Legacy Christian, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25 (Eden Prairie High School)
State appearances: 17 (1998 A champion, 1999 A champion, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 A champion, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2021, 2022)
Top players: Sr. Joey Lonzo (11 goals, 18 assists); So. Sam Theobald (9 goals, 6 assists); Jr. Peyton Loeslie (6 goals, 3 assists); Sr. McKaid Schotzko (7 goals, 4 assists); Jr. Charlie Young (3 goals, 3 assists); So. Tziyon Morris.
About the Eagles: Lourdes just keeps looking better and better as the season has worn on. A lot of that has to do with Lonzo, who sports a protective face mask after breaking his nose before the season began. It hasn't slowed him down one bit as he is fourth in the state with 18 assists and has a team-best 11 goals. McKaid Schotzko was a Class A Mr. Soccer finalist and is an absolute force in the back end for coach Kane and company. Those two were named Class A all-state and they make the life easier on their talented, but a bit younger midfielders.
About their opponents: Legacy Christian (16-1-1) is making its first state tournament appearance, having won seven matches in a row. Its path through the Section 7A playoffs included back-to-back 3-0 wins. Dominic Zoa scored four of those six goals and now has 26 on the season.
Coach Kane says: "We don’t have any similar opponents so scouting might be a little bit of an issue. What I’ve heard so far is that they are a really good possession team and will look to control the ball. I think we’ll match up well and the hope is to be able to release Joey against their outside backs since that seems to be a weakness. ... I am really happy with the seed. There was a chance we could have been unseeded so I was really happy."