Playoff appears impossible to predict
Anyone interested in sizing up the upcoming Section 5AA soccer tournament might be a pretty popular individual to the coaches involved in a field that begins play Thursday, Oct. 10.
About all that is known is Maple Grove will carry the most impressive regular season record (11-3-1) into a tournament that was seeded after this edition of the paper went to press.
But, for those that give any measure of indication that this year’s seeds might play in sorting out how this could play out, the participating teams have a message to relay.
“Good luck,” said Park Center head coach Sean McNattin. “We know first hand out little that number next to your name means. It didn’t do us anything last year.”
True, Park Center has among the top seeded teams in the field, but exited quickly and quietly in a first round loss to Centennial.
Naturally, Centennial isn’t even in the to tournament this year, as they were swapped out in realignment by the Minnesota State High School League for the unknown that is Prairie Seeds Academy.
The Lycans were the Class A state champions in 2010, and then the state runner-up in 2011. They also qualified for the Class A state tournament a year ago, but were disqualified after a brawl broke out near the end of the section title game with Totino-Grace, which ignited an investigation that found the club in violation of a number of MSHSL rules.
They were moved up to Class AA this year, and into Section 5, which is also home to Maple Grove, Osseo, Park Center, Champlin Park, Irondale, Mounds View and Spring Lake Park.
“Nobody knows a thing about them,” said Champlin Park head coach Scott Dossett, whose team was the Section 5 champion a year ago. “They will add some intrigue, no question.”
The theory is that Prairie Seeds will be a force. The hope is they are legal.
“Teams had an opportunity to get them on the schedule and the majority of teams passed it up given some of the challenges they have had,” said McNattin. “They are going through a transition time, so no one really knows what they will bring, other than probably a pretty good challenge for whoever has to play them.”
That should be a theme for each of the four section quarterfinal games. Champlin Park has the worse record of all the entrants at 3-9-2, but the Rebels are coming off a scoreless draw with top-ranked Blaine in their regular season finale Oct. 3.
Osseo was hot early but has since lost six in a row. Park Center enters on three-game unbeaten streak. Maple Grove has been the most consistent of the bunch, but Irondale has eight wins of its own, and Mounds View was in the title game a year ago with Champlin Park.
“It might be the most difficult section in the state to try and predict,” said Dossett. “The regular season doesn’t mean a lot, because I think we are all just kind of sizing each other up. The only thing most of us are worried about is trying to win three games in the playoffs and get to state. That is the ultimate goal. That is what we are playing for.”
Contact Nick Clark at email@example.com