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Boys soccer: North High boys soccer team tops in the state
Polars knock off defending champion Eastview in shootoutWally Wakefield
The celebration was loud, long and real. And the gathered North High fans at the Metrodome Oct. 31 were not celebrating anything that had to do with Halloween.
The exuberant fans were cheering their heroes who were assembled in front of them to collect their gold medals after just winning the Minnesota Boys State Class AA Soccer Tournament.
It was an exciting finish to an exciting game and an exciting season for the Polars.
For the North athletes, it was a dream (and a near obsession) come true.
Two years ago the Polars had gained a berth in the state tournament, and last year they were upset in the semifinals of the section tournament.
This year - some four or five years in the making for the 15 seniors on the North roster - their goal of winning a state championship came true when they beat the defending state champs, the Eastview Lightning of Apple Valley, in a shootout.
The Polars finished the season with an overall record of 20-1-1. The group of senior-laden players has been to two state Class 2A tournaments and now has a coveted first-place trophy to proudly display in the school’s trophy case.
The title game was not an easy victory. It took 80 minutes of regulation, then 20 minutes of overtime play.
The shootout came after 100 minutes of solid effort and a tied score, 3-3.
Each team chose five players, and then fired alternate shots from the penalty spot, which is 12 yards from the goal line.
During a shootout, the ball is placed on the penalty mark, and the lone person in front of the shooter and the 192 square feet of open goal is the goal keeper.
Suddenly, the game and the six goals scored during the 100 minutes of play were forgotten and irrelevant.
First to shoot was North ace Justin Oliver. He scored. Next, Eastview scored. Then twin brother Tyler Oliver dented the back twines, and Eastview matched his effort.
The Polars made good on their third shot. Then came the deciding miscue when an Eastview bullet shot banged off the left post of the goal. That put North up by 3-2 in the shootout.
Next Gino Fruci scored for North. Eastview matched his effort.
The worried fans on both sides became silent. Next to shoot for North was Adolfo Barrera-Gonzalez. If he made a goal, the victory would belong to North.
His successful shot brought a roar from the Polars fans that echoed all the way from the Metrodome to North St. Paul, where the school is located.
With the bulging of the back mesh - and the 4-3 shootout win - the championship fulfilled the long-held dreams of the North soccer athletes.
For the record in the hard-fought championship contest in which North never trailed, goals were scored by Justin Oliver on a penalty kick that sailed into the upper left corner of the Eastview net.
Eight minutes later, Eastview countered to push the count to 1-1.
Just 7:13 into the second half of play, a corner kick by Diego Olanda-Fernandez sailed into a scrum in front of the Lightning net. John Anderson out-leaped the opposition and headed the orb into the upper back twines to make it 2-1 North.
Two minutes later, Eastview again knotted the score.
Then the Oliver twins demonstrated why they have been such an important factor to the Polars’ success for the last five years.
An superb feed off the foot of Tyler Oliver hit brother Justin who steered it around the keeper and inside the post for a 3-2 North margin 26:21 into the second half of action.
A bit later, a North shot from just under 20 yards out caromed off the cross bar and up out of play as North continued to press for the win in regulation time.
The North jubilation ebbed however when just 3:08 from the final horn Eastview found magic and scored to again level the score at 3-3.
The teams then played through the 20 minutes of sudden victory overtime before heading to the shoot out and game’s end.
North coach Casey Holm summed up the win and the first boys soccer state championship for the Polars succinctly by saying, “It was the perfect ending to an absolutely great season.”
Wally Wakefield can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.