After last year’s Section 7AA finals overtime showdown, there was plenty of anticipation leading into Tuesday’s clash between Blaine and Andover.
The wait for a winner, though, will have to last a little longer.
After four combined goals in the first half, neither side could break through with a decisive score late as the Bengals and Huskies played to a 2-2 draw.
Both teams struck early, with Andover converting a deep kick just inside the top of the crossbar six minutes in, only for Blaine to respond a minute later. By halftime each had added another score, leaving the match tied at 2-2.
That’s how it would remain, although not for a lack of chances. And physical play.
“I thought our effort was there,” Blaine head coach Scott Zachmann said. “We fought until the end, which is always good to see. I know we can play better. We’ve got to tighten up our defense. We got down 1-0 early and could have folded a little bit, but we came back 30 seconds later and got a goal. That tells you a lot about the character of this team.
“It’s Andover: they want to win and we want to win. All games have meaning, but being that we have a chip on our shoulder, this one and all future ones against the Huskies prove to be the event you find yourself looking forward to the most.”
Andover appeared to have won the match with just two seconds to play, but was ruled offside, then had a shot in overtime ricochet off of the post and out of play.
The Huskies (5-1-2) have opened the season strong, with only a 1-0 defeat to Rosemount in their season opener.
“I think ours girls have played pretty well,” Andover head coach Tracey Greiss said. “We always like to go up to Duluth to play in their opening tournament for a few non-conference games because they are tough teams and it gives us a good look at what we have right away. This last week was challenging with the start of school and three games in five days, but our girls did great. Our goal was to come away with three wins and we did that.
“Now the challenge is to continue to get a little better every day at practice and every game so that we can get where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Andover has also enjoyed the benefits of possessing a very experienced roster.
“We have 10 returning seniors on our team,” Greiss said. “Whether they are starters, subs or on the bench, they are a fantastic group of leaders that have guided this team to where we are so far. I look forward to watching these ladies continue to grow and develop over the rest of the season.
“Knowing where we want to be at the end of the season, every game is a big game for us. We know that we need to take this one step at a time and always focus on the task at hand.”
The Bengals are also 5-1-2, with their only setback coming 3-0 at Maple Grove.
“Overall, we have put a good product on the field,” Zachmann said. “We need to clean up a few areas of our game, but we are working on that. We have had some great moments and some not so great moments, but we continue to trust the process and work toward our common goal. I think it takes some time to mesh eight summer teams together into one, and we are working hard on that.
“I like the way all of us are playing. We can sub at any point in the game, any one person, and we do not see a drop in play. It really is neat to see a team that is strong from top to bottom and bottom to top. I guess in the end, there isn’t a top or bottom – we just are a team that can rely on one another at any given moment. We are a pretty well-rounded team.”
With both teams currently atop the section standings, trailed by Anoka (4-1-2), a rematch down the road remains very possible.
“I think we both know it could very easily be both of us playing for that section championship,” Zachmann said. “We have some good teams in our section. The last few years we’ve been in it, Andover’s been it. It definitely had a playoff feel. No one wants to lose.”