Soccer team into final of Section 5AA tournament
The scare came a game earlier than Champlin Park might have expected, but the hope is it does the trick this week.
Riding an undefeated perfect season, and the top seed in the Section 5AA boys soccer playoff, the Rebels took a literal approach to the survive-and-advance technique often times needed in postseason success.
Champlin Park advanced into this week’s section championship game by surviving a semifinal match-up with Spring Lake Park that threatened the Rebels’ state tournament aspirations.
Senior Ramadan Hassan was credited with the only goal of the evening Oct. 11, as his cross three minutes into a second overtime session deflected in off a Spring Lake Park defender to lift Champlin Park to a 1-0 victory.
The own-goal was a gift, but it was also enough to get the Rebels into a Oct. 16 Section 5AA final date with third-seeded Mounds View.
“We expected a tussle,” said head coach Gavin Pugh. “We knew they would be up for it, and they were really organized defensively. It was difficult for either team to break the other one down. We were a rock defensively, and we needed to be because very little was coming easy on the other end.”
It was a direct contrast to how the rest of the season had played out up until then. Champlin Park had averaged over three goals per game throughout the regular season. That trend continued in the playoff opener Oct. 9, when the Rebels upended eight-seeded Osseo 3-1 to advance into the semifinals.
But Spring Lake Park mustered the type of effort befitting of a postseason upset. Champlin Park avoided it with a bit of luck, something the Rebels hadn’t needed much off in roaring to a 14-0-1 record heading into the game.
Hassan’s goal led to win No. 15, and a 16th would lead to a state tournament berth.
The Rebels last played in the state tournament in 2009, and they will be seeking a fourth trip this week when they face Mounds View.
The game will be a rematch of a 3-0 Champlin Park victory from Sept. 15, and it will come with the Rebels fully understanding what is at stake.
“I do think this last game was enough of a scare for the guys to know this is the real deal,” Pugh said. “I don’t think I’ll need to talk to any of them about how big the next game is.”