WHS boys’ soccer to lose 14 seniors

The 2012 Waconia boys’ soccer team had a historical season that  will not soon be forgotten.
The 2012 Waconia boys’ soccer team had a historical season that will not soon be forgotten.

Thirteen shutouts, 58 goals scored, only nine goals allowed by the opposition, and a final 18-1-1 record.

The numbers alone can speak for themselves, telling just how talented the Waconia boys’ soccer team was this season. A state tournament appearance, the Section 6A title, and back-to-back Wright County Conference championships have forever marked the 2012 season as the most successful in team history.

“This was a special team,” head coach Tyrel Seim said, “one that as a coach I made sure to enjoy all the steps along the way because you never know if you will get another team who can have a season like this.”

The season began at the end of August with wins over Southwest Christian, Glencoe-Silver Lake, and Delano, before the team’s sole tie of the regular season, a 0-0 stalemate at Holy Family (Sept. 4).

The Wildcats then bulldozed through two rounds of conference competition, winning 12 straight regular season games and handedly winning their second WCC title with an 11-0-1 record.

Seeded No. 1 in Section 6A, the Wildcats took out WCC competitors Delano and Orono in the first two rounds of the section tournament in mid-October, winning 6-2 over Delano (Oct. 11) and 3-1 over Orono (Oct. 13).

The section title game was intense from start to finish, and after both teams were tied at 0-0 at the end of regulation, the game went into not one, but two, overtime periods. When just 17 seconds remained in the second overtime, senior Mitch Zebell scored to win the section for Waconia and earn the team’s first ever trip to the state tournament.

“To play in front of packed stands in our last home game and win with 17 seconds left is a once in a lifetime experience that most athletes never get to experience,” Seim said. “The amount of exposure this group of players gave soccer in Waconia was unbelievable.”

The Wildcats’ state tournament run ended prematurely, as Waconia fell 2-1 to No.1 seeded St. Paul Academy on Oct. 25. St. Paul Academy advanced to defeat St. Cloud Cathedral, before losing in the championship game to Rochester Lourdes.

Throughout the season, the Wildcat attack was led by a host of offensive players. Senior William Schultz led the team in goals scored with 11, closely trailed by senior Nick Dirnberger and juniors Marcel Montiel and James Nash, who each had nine goals. Senior Seth Krueger shot in eight goals for Waconia, while junior Charlie Spurbeck (5) and senior Mitch Zebell (4) also contributed multiple scores. Seniors Ian Manske, Steven Diehl, and Dan Butz each scored one goal this season. Assist leaders included Zebell (8), Montiel (7), Nash (7), and Krueger (6).

In goal, senior Brandon Gonzalez tallied 13 shutouts in 1,630 minutes. He allowed only nine goals of 137 attempts, saving 128 shots for a save percentage of 0.934.

Ten members of the Waconia team received either All-Conference or All-Conference honorable mention honors for their play throughout the season. All-Conference honorees were seniors Butz, Gonzalez, Krueger, Kullman, and Schultz. Those with All-Conference Honorable Mention included seniors Dirnberger, Ryan Christensen, Tyler Christensen, and juniors Montiel and Nash. Kullman was named an All-State athlete, while Schultz and Gonzalez received All-State Honorable Mention recognition. Gonzalez, a now two-time All-State Honorable Mention award winner, was also named to the All-State tournament team.

Team awards included: Most Valuable Player – Brandon Gonzalez, Forward MVP – William Schultz, Midfield MVP – Nick Dirnberger and Seth Krueger, Defense MVP – Ben Kullman, Most Improved – Ian Manske and Steven Diehl, and Hardest Worker – Dan Butz.

The Wildcats will lose nearly their entire starting lineup next season, as they say goodbye to 14 talented seniors including Butz, Ryan Christensen, Tyler Christensen, Diehl, Dirnberger, Gonzalez, Krueger, Kullman, Manske, Schultz, and Zebell, along with Brandon Benson, Kody DeLange, and Alexander Herman.

The backfield will be empty to begin the 2013 season, as the entire Waconia defense and goalie will be gone. It will be the hardest part of the field to fill, Seim said.

“All of them started at least two years in their varsity careers and helped us get 25 shutouts the last two season,” he said.

Seim said juniors Kevin Kittleson and Mason Tuttle are “two good players to work with in the back,” as the Wildcats fill in the defense. Junior John Rogers and Trip Haggenmiller will compete for the goalkeeper position, according to Seim, after both improved considerably this season.

The midfield was also senior heavy and included three-year starters Dirnberger and Krueger.

The “electrifying” Schultz will be missing from the Waconia attack, but will leave a smaller wake in his departure, as Nash, Montiel, and Spurbeck will all return for the Wildcat offense next season.

“These three will be a strong attacking core who will be hard to slow down for any team next season,” Seim said. “We know it will be hard to replicate this year’s success but this group of young kids has some very good players so we aren’t worried.”