Defending Class AA state champion Wayzata (16-2-2) showed why it deserves to play in the state championship game following a 4-1 win over Blaine (15-5-1) in the semifinals Oct. 30.
The Trojans, seeded No. 2 behind top-seed Lakeville North, jumped to a 3-0 lead less than 26 minutes into the game, scoring four distinct ways with four different players to solidify its place among the states elite once again this season. Blaine faced Lakeville North for the third place trophy Nov. 1.
Wayzata spread the scoring around all season with 15 different players contributing points while the defense performed just as flawlessly with a dozen shutouts during the regular season which included six ranked opponents.
To counter the Trojans, Blaine coach Scott Zachmann wanted to play an uptempo, physical style which worked well, especially in the section final as they came back from an early deficit to win 3-2.
“It is Wayzata and we respect them but we also felt like it was a moment to solidify our program,” he said. “The emotions were high too. This was our first time here and the goal was to get her but we weren’t able to settle in and that had an affect on our play from the beginning.”
Zachmann pointed to his team’s focused attention to represent the community well in the spotlight that is a state tournament. “We wanted to prove to people that we are a decent team and belong here.
To get a feel for the artificial turf, Zachmann practiced inside the Sports Hall at the National Sports Center in the days leading up to the state semifinal.
Trojans leading scorer Kylie Schwarz opened the scoring with a fantastic individual effort in the 15th minute. Schwarz, who had 33 points prior to the state tournament bent her shot around Blaine goalkeeper Alex Barber-Verdick from near the end line as the ball glanced off the inside of the far post.
“It was kind of an eye-opener,” Bengals senior midfielder Kirsten Olsen said. “Just because they got one, we needed to get one back.”
Blaine coach Scott Zachmann echoed those thoughts as the team came from behind before, including a 3-2 win over Andover in the section final after trailing 2-0 less than three minutes in.
Wayzata made it 2-0 on a well-executed cross collected by Summer Johnson who used her thigh to knock the ball into the goal after splitting the Blaine defense. Madeline Eklin made it 3-0 as she tipped the ball past Barber-Verdick who came out to make a challenge in the 26th minute.
Blaine erased the zero as the first half drew to a close as Ashley Pafko passed the ball through the Trojans defense, ahead to Karah Jolly who touched the ball in to make it 3-1 less than five minutes before halftime. The Bengals had similar chances in the second half, but couldn’t convert those into goals.
“We weren’t worried about that first or second goal. Even at 3-1, Jolly had another chance on a breakaway. We had another good chance on a cornerback and with either we could’ve been right back in it at 3-2 but that fourth goal pretty much sunk us,” Zachmann said as Wayzata’s Johnson split between to Blaine defenders on a partial breakaway as Barber-Verdick came out to challenge for the ball. Johnson calmly chipped the ball over the lunging Bengals keeper and just before the ball rolled into the goal, Wayzata sub Ruby Stauber finished the play with an extra tip-in for the 75th minute goal.
Zachmann told his team afterward that no-one ever wants to play in that third place game because: “that means you aren’t playing for a state championship, but we’re still in it to represent ourselves and that will be the motivating factor.
“I’m not worried about them. They’ll be ok.”
“We just want to finish the season on a good note,” Olsen said.
To reach near the peak in old his second season with the club is quiet an achievement for Zachmann to put Blaine girls’ soccer on the map. “[The team]’s been great to be a pat of. We’re just so proud of the way the girls have responded to us and the training. The community is pumped right now about soccer and the young kids are excited and coming out to camps we do,” he said. “What we’ve done the last two years with the program has helped us build for the years to come.”
That community support includes the boys’ team pitching in from the stands. The girls were cheering from the front row Monday afternoon and planned to do the same as the boys went for its first state title Nov. 1. “They were really excited for us and it was a good to get a feel for the atmosphere [of playing at Metrodome],” Barber-Verdick said.