After an intense 1-0 win over No. 3 Breck on Oct. 16, the Waconia boys’ soccer team has won the Section 6A title and advanced to the state tournament, a first in team history.
Senior Mitch Zebell scored the section-winning goal with just 17 seconds remaining in the second overtime period.
The Wildcats join Rochester Lourdes and St. Paul Academy/Summit School as section champions in Class A. State quarterfinals begin Oct. 24-26. Seedings and locations will be announced once the other state contenders are determined on Thursday.
Despite a few anxious moments, the Wildcats picked their way through the Section 6A competition last week, which included wins over conference rivals Delano and Orono.
Waconia 6, Delano 2
Three minutes into the game on Oct. 11, senior William Schultz picked up a loose ball and scored. Midway through the first half, senior Seth Krueger played senior Nick Dirnberger through the Delano defense for a breakaway goal. Delano retaliated with two goals in five minutes to leave the game tied 2-2 at the half.
“This was a wake up call for us,” head coach Tyrel Seim said. “We were getting a little content and this made us realize in the playoffs anything can happen. Both goals were preventable and were mistakes we made.”
Both teams had strong second halves, but the Wildcats were able to put more balls in the net. Senior Steven Diehl played through the Delano defense to junior James Nash. Nash collided with the Tigers’ goalie on the shot, and the ball found its way into the back of the net. Dirnberger returned the favor to Krueger with a cross that Krueger put away to give Waconia a 4-2 lead.
Nash scored his second goal of the game on an assist from junior Marcel Montiel before the last goal was scored with 13 minutes to play. Senior Dan Butz had a thrown in that Dirnberger chest trapped and put in the net for the 6-2 victory. Senior goalie Brandon Gonzalez had six saves.
Waconia 3, Orono 1
Beating any team three times in a season is difficult, but beating a powerhouse like Orono would be a challenge, Seim said. But the Wildcats succeeded in taking down the Spartans 3-1 on Oct. 13.
Once again, Schultz started the scoring for the Wildcats three minutes into the game. Krueger scored in the first half, before Orono put in a loose ball. Waconia led 2-1 at halftime. Both goalies had solid saves in the second half, especially Gonzalez when Orono had an open chance to score. He finished the game with nine saves.
To finish off the Spartans, the Wildcats executed a textbook combination pass, from Krueger to Montiel to Nash, back to Montiel who scored with three minutes to go. The Wildcats victory over Orono sets a new school record for most wins in a season.
With 17 victories, Waconia has now surpassed the 2008 squad, a team that went 16-4 and lost in the section finals to Breck. Tuesday night’s game marked the third time in five season that the Wildcats have made it to the section finals. They lost in 2008 to Breck and to Benilde-St. Margaret’s last season. Seim said he made the players focus on the regular season and then each playoff game, so as not to get too far ahead of themselves.
“I didn’t want them looking past opponents or too far ahead … it didn’t need to be spoken that our goal was to be right back where our season ended last year, in the section finals,” he said. “There was just kind of a feeling that if we didn’t get back to the finals and get these seniors another chance to go to state, the season would have been a little disappointing.”