We are the champions: soccer teams take Section 3A titles

October 20, 2022

Voices were lost, tears were shed, and hard-fought battles came to a gratifying end when both varsity soccer teams emerged as Section 3A champions on Tuesday night.

BVS goes 3 for 3 against Minnehaha

The pressure was on BVS in the championship game, and they rose to the occasion.

The Spartans and Redhawks had played each other twice in the weeks before the section finals. Though both games were close and their game on Oct. 8 even went to overtime, the Spartans prevailed 2-0 and 4-2. While the Redhawks were the IMAC conference champions, the Spartans entered the section tournament as the #1 seed.

With two previous wins under their belt, all eyes were on the Spartans to see if they could pull it off in a third and final matchup. After a long huddle and pep talk, the team came onto the field with evident determination, ready to leave it all out there.

The Spartans connected passes well and maintained consistent pressure against their opponents. Still, with the teams being relatively evenly-matched, much of the play stayed in the center of the field. This required key midfielders Tommy Verhey, Yash Kshirsagar, Awaale Osman, and Orion Kim to maintain solid ball control to set up the forwards and generate offensive momentum.

“I think that teamwork and trust in each other were really key for us winning,” Osman said.

The Spartans’ diligence and obvious team chemistry led them to many exciting offensive opportunities. From fast-paced breakaways to capitalizing on corner kicks, the team had significantly more attempts on goal than their opponents. Still, when the Redhawks came in hot offensively, the Spartans knew they could count on goalie Cooper Olson, recently named IMAC Goalie of the Year, to shut them down.

For 76 minutes, the scoreboard sat at 0-0. But with only four minutes remaining in the second half, captain Cooper Bollinger-Danielson was a driving offensive force heading towards the goal, and a charge from Minnehaha’s goalie was all he needed to succeed. With a quick right-footed chip, Bollinger Danielson shot the ball right past the goalie and into the lower right corner of the net, marking his 20th goal of the season. Soon after shooting, he tripped over a player and fell to the ground. Still, the setback didn’t stop him from rushing toward his teammates in celebration before he was briefly subbed out due to the injury.

It’s not every day that you get to see two great teams work their hearts and minds on the field and bring such passion.”

— Cooper Bollinger Danielson

With a goal under their belts, the Spartans were golden. Despite their excitement, the team knew that four minutes was more than enough time for the Redhawks to potentially respond with a goal, and they kept their focus until the very end. BVS is the first team from the SPA boys soccer program to advance to the state tournament in ten years.

After celebrating an incredible performance against a tough opponent, the Spartans filled in the bleachers to cheer on GVS. When both teams were eventually crowned champions, the excitement was unlike any other. “It’s not every day that you get to see two great teams work their hearts and minds on the field and bring such passion. There’s a saying that we have on the team: ‘pressure is privilege’ and we rose to the occasion,” Bollinger Danielson said.

The details for BVS’s first game in the state tournament are not yet finalized.

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Underdog GVS prevails over rivals

Coming into the championship game, the girls varsity soccer team had a running joke that the chance of them winning was one in ten. They were the underdogs; despite, their optimistic attitudes and the support of their fans, they weren’t expected to win. In the end, that is all the motivation they needed to pull it off.

The rivalry between the girls soccer teams from SPA and Minnehaha Academy has been long-brewing. Last fall, even after the Spartans pulled off two wins against the Redhawks in the regular season, they fell short in the semi-finals, and the Redhawks went on to win both the section and state championships. This season, the Redhawks continued to dominate in their conference matchups with the Spartans, winning 6-0 and 2-0. The Redhawks entered the section tournament as the #1 seed, with the Spartans coming in at #2.

The Spartans knew they had something to prove, and after watching the boys come through at the last minute, they were ready. Immediately after kickoff, they started off on the right foot. Despite the sub-40-degree temperatures, the Spartans came out with energy, enthusiasm, and excitement, connecting passes well and going after every ball.

After two hard matchups this season, the Spartans knew their opponents’ strengths well. The team was determined to mark and keep the pressure on star player Berit Parten, who scored seven of the previous eight goals against them and recently verbally committed to the University of Iowa to play Division I soccer. Defenders Annie Zhang, Lucia Gonzalez, Aurelia Meza, Heidi Deuel, and midfielder Hazel McCarthy, were key in executing their defensive strategy.

“Our mindset was to be aggressive, work hard, and maintain the pressure on their offense the whole game. Our formation and mindset paid off,” McCarthy said.

With defense under control, the next step was upping their offense. Led by captain Maryeva Gonzalez, the midfielders were patient and ready to step to every ball to keep offensive momentum rolling and distribute the ball to the forwards. With speed and skilled ball control, the dynamic duo of Elizabeth Tuttle and Sawyer Bollinger Danielson led the Spartans to important offensive runs, eventually culminating in a goal by Bollinger Danielson in the 25th minute.

Keeping shots and breakaways at bay for the remaining 55 minutes, goalie Lindsay Browne had an exceptional performance. Browne was a driving force in the Spartan’s win by making nine saves, preventing shots off of corner kicks, and communicating well with her teammates, giving the Redhawks their first scoreless game since the 2020 season.

I remember the girls team going to state when I was in sixth grade […] that is who I wanted to be and what I wanted my high school soccer career to look like.”

— Lindsay Browne

When the nail-biter game finally ended, cheers echoed all around as spectators stormed the field to congratulate the team on their well-deserved victory. Making it an even more memorable occasion, GVS is leading the SPA girls soccer program to the state tournament for the first time in six years.

“I remember the team going to state when I was in sixth grade and seeing Belle Smith handle the penalty kicks and just thinking to myself as a goalie that that is who I wanted to be and what I wanted my high school soccer career to look like. Having this come true is so surreal,” Browne said.

GVS will be advancing to the class A state tournament, and the details of their first game are still being determined.

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