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Boys Soccer: Polars down Raptors in section final
North gains berth in state tourney for second time in three years
North 4 - East Ridge 2
The No. 1-seeded North High boys soccer team faced the East Ridge Raptors (third seed) Oct. 15 in the Section 4AA championship game at North Field.
A year ago, it was East Ridge of Woodbury that abruptly ended the North season after posting a record of 16-0 heading into the semifinal playoff action.
This time it was “redemption” for the Polars (17-1-1) as they handed the Raptors (14-2-2) a 4-2 setback in the section final.
The Raptors scored the only goal of the first half on a misdirection - it changed direction after caroming off a defender - off the foot of Jarrod Ronquillo.
Heading into the second half and down by 1-0, the Polars made some adjustments. North coach Casey Holm stated, “We changed our formation and moved some kids around to different positions.
“Following the intermission, our kids came out flying.”
From a corner kick in just the seventh minute of the second session, Diego Olanda-Fernandez sent a boot screaming into the East Ridge goal.
That served to further boost the efforts of the Polars.
Just over seven minutes later, a crossing pass off the foot of Adolfo Barrera-Gonzalez found Adam Hildebrandt. The senior midfielder banged it home in the 15-minute mark of the second half play.
A second corner kick, also by Olanda-Fernandez, curved in a super manner into the scrum in front of the East Ridge goal. Once it arrived, it was Barrera-Gonzalez who leaped high to head into an open net.
The goal by Barrera-Gonzalez turned out to be the game-winner.
Then, with 15 minutes remaining in the contest, the leading scorers in the state combined to put the finishing touches on the victory.
Tyler Oliver sent a super feed through the box in front of the Raptors’ goalmouth. On the other side, the ball found a charging twin brother Justin, who one-timed the ball to the back twines for a 4-1 tally.
With just three minutes remaining in the game, the Raptors’ Connor Stevenson found the combination to put the ball to the back of the North net.
Stevenson’s goal turned out to be too little, too late as it was the final goal of the game.
North hung on for the 4-2 triumph to gain its second trip to the Minnesota State Class AA Boys Soccer Tournament in three years.
North’s first game in the state tournament will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Chisago Lakes High School field. The Polars, who are seeded fourth in the tournament, will face fifth-seed Prairie Seeds Academy (14-0-0) of Brooklyn Park.
Veteran squad heading to “State”
Coach Holm stated, “We are so excited to take a North team back to the ‘State.’ It’s just a great feeling watching your community rally around you!
“The first state experience (in 2011) was very exciting for us; it was a dream come true. That was our goal then to get to the State. We were very young. We had a couple of freshmen, sophomores and juniors and a few seniors.
“This time around, we are very experienced. We are returning eight players from that 2011 team and have a group of 15 seniors and two juniors who have been with us since the seventh and eighth grades.
“This is a very special group who is coming into their own as a team! They truly enjoy playing together,” Holm said.
“We feel that our new (North stadium) turf gives us an advantage as well to train on and prepare for the turf we will find on the state fields.
“We are very much looking forward to representing North in the tournament.”
If the Polars beat the Prairie Seeds Academy Lycans in the opening round of the tournament, they will advance to the Metrodome where they will face either Elk River/Zimmerman or Eastview of Apple Valley at 4 p.m., Monday, Oct. 28.
The Minnesota Boys Class AA championship game will take place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, at the Metrodome.