Xcelling to the top

Girls Varsity Hockey finishes fourth in state

The United Hockey team, with sophomore goalie Catherine Johnson at the front, lines up to head into the semifinals of the Feb. 21 state tournament.

In any sport, players dream of making it to state. For the United Girls Varsity Hockey team, this dream became a reality. For the first time in the history of St. Paul United hockey, the team went to the state tournament. They not only went to state, but they finished in fourth place.

After a great 3-2 overtime win against South St. Paul in the section semifinals, the Girls Varsity Hockey team geared up to play the powerful Achiever Academy team in the section finals. Achiever was seeded #1 in section 4A, but at the last minute withdrew from the tournament.

Achiever Academy is an online school for elite hockey players. Students come from all over to play for them, but not all of the players’ families had moved to the school district, as Minnesota State High School League rules requires.

This led to controversy over six or more “ineligible players.” After many meetings with the league officials, Achiever Academy forfeited the section final game. This gave St. Paul United an automatic berth into the state tournament.

St. Paul United is a team of players from both SPA and Visitation. There are nine SPA girls on the varsity team. “It was the most amazing feeling in the world, and everyone’s ecstatic,” freshman forward Lauren Boettcher said. This year the team beat a lot of rivals, such as the Breck Mustangs, and South St. Paul in the section semifinals as well as in regular season.

“This year’s team is much more determined than teams we’ve had in the past,” senior captain Alev Baysoy said. The team has a lot of skill, and their dedication to the sport really shows. They work hard and know what they want.

“Also, this team is much more confident. I think that is largely due to the new coaching staff. They always stress how much they believe in us,” Baysoy added. The support from the coaches was a key factor in United’s successful season.

The first game in the state tournament for St. Paul United took place on Feb. 19. They took on Proctor-Hermantown at the Xcel Energy Center. There were fans from SPA, Visitation, and St. Thomas Academy who all came together to support United. The crowd’s loud cheers and fun signs helped lead the team to a 5-2 victory.

“No United game in history has ever had that many fans attend a game and it made a huge difference. It gave everyone an extra boost of energy and carried throughout the entire game,” Baysoy said.

Boettcher scored, along with junior defender Kate Hallett, sophomore forward Lea Grobe, and freshman forward Joie Phelps of Visitation.

The victory over Proctor Hermantown moved them into the Final Four of the tournament, as they played the semifinal game against East Grand Forks on Feb. 22. Two goals were scored by Alev Baysoy in the first period.

However, East Grand Forks’ Alexa Mack scored near the end of the first period. The second period saw the score remain unchanged, as both teams worked hard for the win. Mak Langei of East Grand Forks scored their second goal on a power play midway through the third period tying the game at 2-2. The game remained tied until the very end of the third, when Alexa Mack scored her second goal of the night giving East Grand Forks the lead and ultimately the win.

The loss did not end their journey. The United team had the chance to play for third place at the Xcel. The game was against Red Wing, who had lost to Blake the day before.

Unfortunately, the game ended in a 2-5 loss for SPU, with goals from Boettcher and Baysoy.

Although they lost, the team still earned fourth in the Class A state tournament. Along with that, sophomore goalie Catherine Johnson made the All-Tournament team for Class A.

The fact that in their first state tournament appearance St. Paul United got fourth place is exciting, and shows how much talent and love for the game the team has. “It was an absolutely amazing experience and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I couldn’t be more proud of my team for working their hardest, representing Visitation and SPA athletics, and showing that hard work really does pay off,” Baysoy said.