Adapted soccer: Thunderbolts touch down in state tourney
The South Washington County Thunderbolts adapted soccer team is returning to the state tournament with hopes of bringing home some hardware.
The Thunderbolts — a mix of student-athletes from East Ridge, Park and Woodbury high schools — defeated Columbia Heights/St. Anthony 13-2 in the CI playoffs on Wednesday, Nov. 6, to punch a ticket to the state tournament for a second-straight year.
“It’s been a great year,” Thunderbolts head coach John Culbertson said. “This is a special group. They’ve really bonded and bought into our philosophy as a team and have become good friends.”
In the win over Columbia Heights/St. Anthony, eighth-grader Bryce Basset and junior Dylan Kubitschek each scored four goals, with Kubitschek also tallying an assist. Also, junior Tristan Rankin scored had three goals and an assist, senior Amanda Henderson netted two goals and senior goalie Thomas “TJ” Jarosiewicz made 15 saves and allowed just one goal in the start. In addition, Jarosiewicz, freshman Casey Murnan, sophomore Austin Sager and senior John Stutelberg each tallied assists in the win.
Culbertson said everyone got a chance to play in the playoff win, including all seven seniors on the Thunderbolts’ roster — Sam Baumann, Stutelberg, Lorenzo Green, Henderson, Nicholas Menard, Marcus Rumpca and Jarosiewicz.
“We’ve really been playing for each other this season,” Culbertson said. “We’re stressing ‘we’ not ‘me,’ respecting the opponent, practicing good sportsmanship and playing for each other.”
The Thunderbolts reached 14 straight state soccer tournaments from 1996 to 2010. In 2011, however, the ‘Bolts fell short of state, losing its playoff game to Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville amidst a 4-5 season. But, the Thunderbolts returned to the big dance last year, taking sixth place.
Last year, the Thunderbolts fell 6-1 to Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville to start the tournament, then bounced back with a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over Anoka-Hennepin, before falling 5-4 to North Suburban in the consolation championship game of the CI division.
The Thunderbolts currently have seven seniors on the roster who lost to North Suburban in the state consolation championship with 30 seconds left to play last year. This year, the team is hungry for more.
“It’s the best chance we’ve had in seven years,” Culbertson said. “We’re trying to stay humble, but at the same time we’re very excited about this opportunity.”
The Thunderbolts finished the regular season undefeated and clinched its first conference championship in seven years. In addition to the conference title, South Washington County earned its first victory over Dakota United in seven years, and tied Burnsville/Lakeville/Farmington 4-4 for the first time in six years.
“I’m excited to see how well we can play defensively,” Culbertson said. “There’s no question we can score and come from behind, but can we play with a lead, can we play under pressure and how well will we do with three games in two days? It’s about defense and conditioning at this point.”
South Washington County (9-0-1)earned a No. 1 seed in the eight-team state tournament after a tie-breaking coin toss with fellow unbeaten CI rival Burnsville/Lakeville/Farmington (9-0-1), which was handed the No. 2 seed. Anoka-Hennepin (9-1) got the No. 1 seed out of the CI North.
The Thunderbolts open the state tournament against fourth-seeded Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville (6-3-1) at 8 p.m. Friday at Stillwater Area High School.
“Mounds View has a good team,” Culbertson said. “At this point we’re trying to instill in the players that everything that happened in the regular season is over. There won’t be any easy games, that’s for sure.”