For the second time in three short years, St. Michael-Albertville soccer is heading to the Class AA Girls’ State Soccer tournament with one mission on their minds: pull off the upset.
In 2012, STMA was pitted against No. 1 Wayzata in the quarterfinal. After a tough first half, the Knights were left behind as the Trojans piled up goals en route to a win, and, eventually, a state championship.
This year, coach Megan Johnson’s club is going to have to play the ‘Cinderella’ role once again, hoping the spiked slipper fits when they match up with Lakeville North this afternoon at 5:30 p.m. at St. Cloud State University.
The key will be cracking the North defense. LNHS has allowed no more than three goals in a game this season, and one of those was a 2-0 loss to the tournament’s No. 1 seed, undefeated Eagan. Lakeville pitched shutouts in 11 of its 18 games, including a 2-0 shutout over Rochester Mayo in its Section 1 AA championship game.
To their credit, the Knights have been equally stout on defense, shutting down Rogers 3-0 in its section final and only allowing two other goals in their section games, including a “garbage” time goal to Bemidji in a 6-1 win. Anita Thommavangsa has been the spark for the Knights on defense, making key saves in net.
“She’s kept us alive so many times. She comes so prepared,” said sophomore midfielder Mackenzie Langdok. “And she’s not afraid to direct traffic.
But it’s not just the keeper. The Knights are effective in clearing the ball out of their own zone and playing possession, starting their counter attack with defensive play on the outside.
“It has to start on that back line,” Johnson said. “They have to play together, and they’ve done a really good job with that so far.”
Offensively, senior Jordyn Walker, Langdok and junior Leah Johnson will be the keys to STMA’s attack. Johnson came up big with a pair of first half goals in the section title game against the Royals, and she’ll almost have to find a way to score again today for the Knights. Langdok, meanwhile, will be the girl who has to command the Knights’ offense from the center of the field.
The two teams square off at 5:30 p.m. at St. Cloud State University’s Husky Stadium, which will host all three rounds of the tournament. Unlike in the past several years, the semifinal and final will be outside (albeit on turf, vs. grass) now that the Metrodome is no more.
For the Knights, they’re just hoping to take that next step and bring home more hardware.