Blaze, Panthers will square off again

SSC rivals to play in state girls soccer semis

Lakeville North's Stephanie Butler heads the ball during the Panthers' 1-0 victory over Mahtomedi at the state Class AA girls soccer tournament. Photo by Rick Orndorf

Lakeville North’s Stephanie Butler heads the ball during the Panthers’ 1-0 victory over Mahtomedi at the state Class AA girls soccer tournament. Photo by Rick Orndorf

Lakeville North’s players said they wanted another chance to go against Burnsville. They got it, and by mid-afternoon Tuesday they’ll know whether or not it was a good idea.

South Suburban Conference rivals Lakeville North and Burnsville will play in the state Class AA girls soccer semifinals at noon Tuesday at the Metrodome. The other semifinal, scheduled for 2 p.m., is an all-Lake Conference matchup between Eden Prairie and Minnetonka. The winners will play for the championship at 3 p.m. Thursday, also at the Metrodome.

North (14-2-3) defeated Mahtomedi 1-0 in a state quarterfinal game Wednesday at Park High School in Cottage Grove. Sarah Fisco’s goal in the 11th minute was the only scoring. In the game preceding North vs. Mahtomedi, No. 1-seeded Burnsville (17-0-3) got past Andover 3-0 with relative ease, even though Blaze coach John Soderholm said his team did not play its best game.

“Our players told me they wanted to play Burnsville again,” Lakeville North coach Bulut Ozturk said. “They didn’t mean any disrespect to Andover, but they were hoping to play Burnsville.”

Burnsville defeated Lakeville North 2-1 in a South Suburban Conference game Sept. 19 after the Panthers has started the season with an eight-game winning streak. Ozturk said that loss prompted a lengthy team meeting and some soul-searching, but the meeting didn’t produce immediate benefits. The Panthers went 1-1-3 in their next five games before settling down. They’re now on a five-game winning streak and haven’t allowed a goal since Oct. 3.

Fisco’s goal against Mahtomedi came on a 30-yard shot that went in just under the crossbar and out of Zephyr goalkeeper Emma Bartholomew’s reach.

While Mahtomedi had more possession time, the North defense allowed few quality scoring opportunities. The Zephyrs’ best chance came with about 14 minutes left with Megan Koenig, an All-State midfielder, sent a free kick toward the corner of the Lakeville North goal. Panthers goalkeeper Alexis Joyce scrambled over to deflect the ball away, leaving Koenig waving her arms in frustration.

“They had two players we really had to watch,” North senior defender Lauren Sherry said. “They had a player (forward Chelsea Henry) who scored 28 goals) and another (Koenig) who had something like 24 assists.”

Both players – as well as several other Zephyrs – were skilled at getting the ball into open space, and Sherry and Ozturk said the Panthers were forced to adjust their defense. Instead of having outside defenders pinch toward a player with the ball to apply pressure, the North defenders had to hold their positions so as not to leave wide-open spaces that Mahtomedi’s talented players could exploit. It worked, as most of the Zephyrs’ shots were from relatively long range.
Burnsville

Lakeville North is no stranger to the Metrodome, having reached the state semifinals the last two years. Neither is Burnsville, which has several players who were on the Blaze’s 2011 Class AA runner-up team.

Ashley St. Aubin scored on a rebound about 12 minutes into the Blaze’s game against Andover.

Ashley St. Aubin (24) of Burnsville plays the ball during the Blaze's 3-0 victory over Andover in the state Class AA girls soccer quarterfinals. Photo by Rick Orndorf

Ashley St. Aubin (24) of Burnsville plays the ball during the Blaze’s 3-0 victory over Andover in the state Class AA girls soccer quarterfinals. Photo by Rick OrndorfAmanda Hartmann scored on a 30-yard shot early in the second half, and Hannah Mitby connected on a 20-yard shot with about 15 minutes remaining.

Abby Soderholm assisted on Burnsville’s first two goals. Burnsville goalkeeper Darby Lofthus made three saves.

“The Andover girls worked very hard and kept us off stride for the first half,” John Soderholm said. “The first 15 minutes of the second half we played very good soccer and got back on our game.”

Burnsville is the only team in the Class AA girls tournament with a chance to finish the season undefeated. No. 2-seeded Mounds View took an 18-0 record into the state tourney but lost to Eden Prairie 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

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