10/4/2012 9:54:00 AM Vikings just having fun on the pitch
By CHUCK FITZER
Despite their 2-11-1 record this year, the Viking boys’ soccer team seems to be enjoying the 2012 season as they head toward next week’s section tournament. We had a chance to sit down with the four senior captains before this past Tuesday’s home game against ninth-ranked St. Louis Park to learn what makes them tick. What we found are young men who get along with each other, try to help their younger teammates and are getting about what they expected out of the current season. And their first-year head coach, Paul Pignato, has a lot to do with letting the players enjoy their senior season after a high degree of intensity under the previous coaching regime. The Vikings, despite having a mostly upperclassmen on their small varsity roster – 11 seniors out of the 15 or so players who get significant playing time – lack soccer experience. For example, senior goalkeeper Brandon Kratzke had never played soccer before this season. But the lack of experience left a lot of room for improvement.
“We’ve improved a lot more than other years,” said senior captain Luke Zschokke, “both individually as players and overall as a team.” Senior captain Levi Kolke elaborated on Zschokke’s comment. He said “Not only are we getting better, but we are working together more as a team and not just a bunch of individuals.” Senior captain John Blomquist said “As a group, the seniors have done a good job helping out the younger players, trying to give the team more of a base for success in the future. “We’re a family,” said the Vikings’ leading scorer, senior captain Logan Klatt, laughing along with his three co-captains. “And I really am having fun playing soccer this year.” Klatt is the only senior likely to play intercollegiate soccer next year. He has already had interest from three Division III schools and plans to study business. Kolke plans to major in science and “definitely minor in photography” and would like to play soccer at the club or intramural level.
Zschokke plans to attend UMD to study engineering and would like to try coaching soccer in the future. Blomquist plans to attend a local college, though he has yet to decide on a major. “I am looking forward to having fun playing intramurals,” he said. “I would like to keep sports as a part of my life.” But how does this group of players approach each game knowing it’s going to be a struggle? “Most of us knew this was going to happen coming in,” said Kolke. Zschokke chimed in “I f we can hang with a good team for most of the game, we are proud of our efforts. And even if we don’t win, our coach is still proud of us because we always give our best efforts. Pignato has asked a lot out of his four senior captains this season and they have delivered. “All four of them have played all over the field this year, going wherever we needed them to. Levi is a warrior. I think he’s only sat about two minutes this season. We’ve been able to stay with teams for the first 40 to 60 minutes this season, but not in the last 20. It seems like the players are having fun, becoming friends and learning something about soccer. If they have done that, then we have had a successful season.”
St. Louis Park 3, North Branch 0 The Vikings lost 3-0 to highly-ranked St. Louis Park this past Tuesday, October 2, at home. St. Louis Park rested a number of their starters for much of the game. The Vikings had a couple of good scoring opportunities late in the second half. Logan Klatt carried the ball into the Oriole box as he tried to squeeze between two defenders. He got off a shot that appeared headed inside the left post, but the Oriole goalkeeper made a nice save to keep the Vikings off the scoreboard. A few minutes later, the Oriole keeper came out to punch away a Viking shot. The ball bounced around and landed at the foot of Viking Joe Prell in the middle of the box. With Oriole players closing in, he quickly spun around and shot, but the ball bounced just wide of the right post. The Vikings play their final regular season game tonight at Benilde-St. Margaret’s at 7 p.m. The section tournament starts next Thursday, with game times, locations and opponents yet to be determined.