2012 Fall Preview: Thunderbolts adapted soccer team has new leader, same missionNew head coach John Culbertson is fortunate to be bringing back many of his top players as he takes the reins of the Thunderbolts for the first time this fall.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
New head coach John Culbertson is fortunate to be bringing back many of his top players as he takes the reins of the Thunderbolts for the first time this fall.
Culbertson has been with the South Washington Thunderbolts program — a mix of student-athletes from East Ridge, Park and Woodbury —for the past 10 years as an assistant coach. He takes over for Denny Larson, the Thunderbolts’ soccer and softball head coach the past 15 years.
Under “coach Denny” the Thunderbolts soccer team reached 14 straight state tournaments from 1996 to 2010 and was state runner-up twice (in 2005 and 2006). The Thunderbolts softball team qualified for 11 state tournaments and has two state championship titles (in 2005 and 2006).
Last year, the ‘Bolts soccer team finished the season 4-5, falling a win short of the state tournament. Needing a win over Mounds View to reach state, the ‘Bolts fell to the Mustangs in the pivotal game.
Culbertson and the ‘Bolts had to say goodbye to graduates Bob Foley, Caleb Gotz and Hannah Behnken last year, but bring back a majority of their players this fall.
Expected to be key players for the Thunderbolts this season include: Alice Liu, Annalise Linder, Tristan Rankin, Amanda Henderson, John Stutleberg and Thomas “TJ” Jarosiewicz.
Culbertson said he sees his team’s top strength being team chemistry.
“We have the same unit playing for third straight year,” he said.
One area Culbertson wants to improve is the team’s transition game.
“We need to come back and support in our own end,” he said.
Culbertson said he expects Dakota United, Burnsville, Chaska and South Suburban to be among the teams to beat in 2012.
The Thunderbolts kick off the season at home on Monday, Oct. 1, against St. Paul Johnson. Another big game will be the team’s Senior Night on Wednesday, Oct. 31. All of the Thunderbolts’ home games are at East Ridge High School.