Thunderbolts begin playoffs Thursday at home
If you listen to South Washington County adapted soccer coach Denny Larson, his players are creatures of habit. The players typically play at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When the team has to deviate from that schedule, the coach is not s...
If you listen to South Washington County adapted soccer coach Denny Larson, his players are creatures of habit.
The players typically play at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
When the team has to deviate from that schedule, the coach is not sure what to expect.
One of the Thunderbolt's three losses this season came when the team had to play on Monday at Bloomington Kennedy.
Last week, South Washington County played on Thursday as scheduled, but the host team, Robbinsdale Cooper, wanted to play the junior varsity game first. Typically, the Thunderbolts JV plays after the varsity game.
The break from tradition again haunted South Washington County.
While the JV team played well against Robbinsdale Cooper, the varsity team suffered an 8-6 loss to Robbinsdale.
"I don't know what it was," Larson said. "The JV played first and I don't know if they relax and aren't able to get going early or if they don't have enough time to warm up. These kids like their routine and when you break from that, it affects them."
The Robbinsdale loss ended the regular season. South Washington County had an 8-3 record and earned the No. 3 seed for the state tournament play-in games. The Thunderbolts host No. 6 seeded Park Center tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.
In the regular-season finale, Robbinsdale started strong leading 6-0 at one point, before the Thunderbolts got its offense going.
"It was unbelievable," Larson said. "Everything they shot at the goal went in. We had to switch some things in the lineup and get some more defense back there. We put a couple new people up for offense. I was happy with how they came back."
South Washington County responded with three goals to close the deficit to 6-3 at halftime. The team would make it closer, but was unable to close it to within two in the 8-6 loss.
Luke Smith and Ben Hebert each scored two goals. Joey Lovitt and Chip Paulson each added one tally a piece.
While the break in routine might have affected the team, it didn't help that Robbinsdale is one of the best teams in the state. Robbinsdale ended with an undefeated record and earned an automatic berth to the state tournament from the North Conference. Stillwater, one of the Thunderbolts' other three losses, was the South Conference champion after also going undefeated.
"That was as good a team as we will face this season," Larson said. "It was a good test for us going into the playoffs."
On the flip side, the South Washington County JV squad enjoyed a 7-4 victory over Robbinsdale, ensuring itself of an undefeated mark. The Thunderbolts JV squad received a three-goal performance from Katie Diegnau and two goals from Amanda Winter to win their final game and finish 6-0.
"It was exciting," Larson said. "They really controlled the game. They should really help the varsity next year. We just keep on building the program."
Before the loss to Robbinsdale, South Washington County defeated North Suburban 10-4 in the final regular-season home game for Parent's Night.
"We had a good turnout," Larson said. "We didn't play a great team, so we were able to get a lot of kids in there to play and they played well."
Lovitt scored five goals in the game, the most by any Thunderbolt player this season, while Smith added four assists.
"Those were two big things," Larson said. "We were able to get a pass out and then boom we put it in. That was a good combination for us."
Adam DeFlorin, Alyssa Peterson, Breanna Freberg, Hebert and Diegnau also scored for South Washington County.
The playoffs now start for the Thunderbolts and the loss to Robbinsdale is one that Larson hopes his team learns from.
With the exception of tomorrow's play-in game with Park Center, the state tournament games are on days that don't fall into South Washington County's normal Tuesday-Thursday schedule. The playoffs are on Friday and Saturday.
And the Thunderbolts will face teams with stronger offenses, like Robbinsdale.
"We have had a very successful season," Larson said. "They have learned a lot. Now it's the playoffs and you never know what can happen in the playoffs. We could be out of it just as fast.
"We need to play as a team. The defense needs to be better. You can't show up at state and five up six goals. We need to stay back and play defense and then have the offense pick its times to attack."
At least Park Center doesn't have its main offensive threat from past seasons, Christian Brown.
"Thank goodness," Larson said. "He has been our nemesis. Last year he hurt us in the playoffs."