On a cold, misty Tuesday night, two talented soccer programs faced off under the lights for a chance at the Class A state tournament. In dramatic fashion straight from a Cinderella-story sports film, the Waconia boys’ soccer team upset the No. 1 seeded Breck Mustangs in a shootout to earn the Wildcats’ second consecutive Section 6A title and state tournament entry.
The No. 2 seeded Wildcats came to the section final on Oct. 15 after defeating No. 10 Southwest Christian and No. 6 Holy Family. The Mustangs, seeded No. 1 this season, knocked off No. 8 Delano and No. 5 Chaska to face off against the Wildcats for the second consecutive season.
Last season, it took two overtime periods to decide that Waconia would advance to state. This season, the Wildcats and Mustangs pushed through two overtimes as well as a shoot out to decide the victor.
To start the game on Oct. 15, Breck scored five minutes into the game to take an early 1-0 lead. Waconia tied it at 1-1 later in the half on a goal from junior Anthony Shuster, who was assisted by senior Charlie Spurbeck.
“We woke up after their first goal and played great defense,” WHS head coach Tyrel Seim said. “Kevin Kittleson, Nik Bohman, Mason Tuttle, and Austin Bruggeman kept their marks all game and made sure the defense was tracking back as well.”
Regulation time ended in a 1-1 tie after a hard fought second half by both teams. Various scoring opportunities for WHS were stopped by Breck’s goalie and sent the game into overtime. The first sudden-death overtime period came and went with nary a goal, as did the second overtime, leading to a shoot out.
While the pressure may have been on Breck as the higher seed, the pressure was also on Waconia goalkeeper Jack Dirnberger, who was playing only his second varsity game at the position. The Mustangs got their first two shoot out shots passed Dirnberger, while the Wildcats’ missed their first shot.
Junior Austin Bruggeman scored on the Wildcats’ second shot, finding the lower right corner. Dirnberger then made his first save, before senior James Nash put his goal passed the Breck goalie to tie the shoot out at 2-2.
Dirnberger made a second save, followed by a goal from Spurbeck to give the Wildcats the 3-2 shoot out lead. Dirnberger then won the shoot out by saving Breck’s fifth attempt on a dive to the left.
“I was so nervous going into the shootout,” Dirnberger said, “but we knew the pressure was on them being the higher seed and not on us, so I was glad I could make some big saves.”
Seim said there was no doubt that Dirnberger was Waconia’s Most Valuable Player of the game.
“He is a great kid and very unselfish being willing to step in and play goalie in a section final versus the No. 1 ranked team in the state,” Seim said. “To beat [Breck] we had to play a nearly flawless game and capitalize on our chances.”
For the Wildcats, a return to state is exactly what they wanted after falling in the quarterfinals last season.
“It’s a dream come true to win sections two years in a row,” captain James Nash said. “Thank you Jack Dirnberger for making three saves!”
Seim said this season, the team hopes to win the quarterfinal game for a chance to play in the Metrodome.
“This is a great group of players who are working really hard right now to make sure we are ready for state,” he said.
Of the eight qualifying Class A teams, Waconia was seeded No. 2 overall behind No. 1 St. Paul Como Park (16-0-3 overall). The Wildcats will face off against unranked Hermantown on Friday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Chisago Lakes Area High School.
The Hermantown Hawks were the No. 6 seed out of Section 7A, defeating No. 11 Big Lake, No. 3 C-E-C, No. 2 Monticello, and the No. 1 seed Chisago Lakes Area to earn their state entry. The Hawks are 12-6-2 this season, and finished fourth in the Lake Superior Conference.
Hermantown’s first, and only other, state appearance was in 2009 when the Hawks finished as runners up.
To defeat Hermantown, the Wildcats will need to shut down Hawks’ senior attacker Kori Ochs, who has scored 24 goals this season. Waconia will also need to put goals past senior goalie Josh Lenard, who has logged 108 saves in 2013.
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]
Check out all the photos from the Oct. 15 boys’ soccer game on our SmugMug site: ecmpublishers.smugmug.com. Search “Sun Patriot” and choose “Sports.”