October 13, 2023 at 1:00 p.m.
Seasons end for boys soccer, both girls teams moving on
The boys’ and girls’ soccer teams at North Branch and Chisago Lakes high schools had vastly different regular seasons and starts to the playoffs. Both boys’ teams won just two games in the regular season and were crushed in their playoff openers. Conversely, both girls’ teams had great regular season records and began the playoffs with convincing wins over their overmatched opponents.
North Branch Girls
The Vikings played to an 8-4-4 record this season, including 6-1-2 over the last half of the season. They finished the regular season with a 3-1 win over the De La Salle Islanders at home on Saturday, October 7. The third-seeded Vikings opened the Section 7AA playoffs with a 6-0 quarterfinal win over the sixth-seeded Hibbing/Chisholm Bluejackets this past Tuesday, October 10 at North Branch High School.
The Vikings will head up to Duluth to play the second-seeded Duluth Denfeld Hunters (9-5-3) tonight at Denfeld High School. There is no game time listed on mshsl.org, and the game is not even listed on mnsoccerhub.org yet. The opening round game was not livestreamed due to Section 7AA policy, according to the North Branch page on the Mississippi 8 Conference website, so we can assume that this game will not be livestreamed either. Since the Section 7AA administration did not immediately respond to an email asking for the reasoning behind this shortsighted policy, we can only assume that they are trying to increase live ticket revenue at the event.
The Vikings were actually higher in the QRF rankings (#21) than the Hunters (#24) at the end of the season, but got the lower seed, forcing the Vikings to travel north for the semifinal game. The Vikings stellar play of late has them primed for a mild upset and a trip to the section championship game on Tuesday, October 17. The winner of the semifinal game will play the winner of the other section semifinal game that features the top-seeded and tenth-ranked Cloquet-Carlton Lumberjacks (10-2-4) against the fifth-seeded Hermantown Hawks (5-7-5). A win by Cloquet over Hermantown is not a sure thing. Cloquet beat Hermantown 1-0 earlier this season, and the teams tied 1-1 last week. So, if the Vikings beat Denfeld, they could host the section championship game next Tuesday if Hermantown upsets Cloquet. But even if top-seeded Cloquet beats Hermantown in the semifinals and the Vikings have to travel to Cloquet for the section championship, the Vikings still have a decent chance to get to the state tournament this season.
North Branch Boys
The Viking boys lost to the fourth-ranked C-E-C Lumberjacks 7-0 at Hilltop Field in Cloquet on Tuesday, October 3 before winning for just the second time this season, beating the Fridley Tigers 3-1 at home on Thursday, October 5 to end the regular season on a high note. Unfortunately, the win over Fridley didn’t mean anything when the seventh-seeded Vikings (2-12-3) faced the second-seeded Grand Rapids Thunderhawks (9-3-5) in the Section 7AA quarterfinals on Tuesday, October 10 at Grand Rapids High School. The Thunderhawks cruised to a 7-0 win over the Vikings, knocking the Vikings out of the playoffs.
Chisago Lakes Girls
The Wildcat girls (10-4-3) lost 4-0 to the Blake Bears at home last Thursday, October 5. They finished the regular season by beating the Hibbing/Chisholm Bluejackets 8-0 on Saturday, October 7 at Cheever Field in Hibbing.
The coaches in Section 4AA seeded the Wildcats fourth for the section playoffs, despite the fact that the Wildcats have a much higher QRF ranking (#16) than the third-seeded Totino Grace Eagles (#26). The Wildcats are actually not that far behind the second-seeded St. Anthony Village Huskies (#12). The Wildcats rolled over the fifth-seeded St. Paul Como Park Cougars (6-5-2) 6-0 Tuesday, October 10 in the section 4AA quarterfinals at Chisago Lakes High School. The win sends the Wildcats to a section semifinal game against the top-seeded and third-ranked Mahtomedi Zephyrs (13-2-1) tonight at 5 p.m. at Mahtomedi High School. To livestream the game, go to the Chisago Lakes page on the Mississippi 8 Conference website and click on the link that looks like a movie camera in the daily schedule. That will take you to the NFHS Network website, where you can subscribe to watch the game.
The Wildcats, always a stalwart defensive team, have a not-so-secret weapon in Addyson Barrett, who has scored the lion’s share of the Wildcat goals this season. It’s likely the Zephyrs will double team or triple team striker Barrett to try to deny her the ball for the entire game, gambling that none of the other Wildcats will pick up the resulting scoring slack. If the Wildcats can find a creative way to get the ball to Barrett, perhaps by moving her back to midfield at some point, and play their usual top-flight defense, a semifinal win and a trip to the section finals is a reasonable possibility. If the Wildcats do win tonight, they will face the winner of tonight’s other semifinal game between St. Anthony and Totino Grace in the section championship game Tuesday, October 17 at the home of the higher seed.
Chisago Lakes Boys
The Wildcat boys finished the regular season with two losses. They were shut out by the St. Paul Como Park Cougars 7-0 on Tuesday, October 3 at Como Park High School, and fell 4-2 to the Hibbing/Chisholm Bluejackets at Cheever Field in Hibbing on Saturday, October 7. The Wildcats were seeded seventh in the Section 4AA playoffs. The second-seeded St. Anthony Village Huskies (10-4-2) steamrollered the Wildcats 10-1 in the section quarterfinals Tuesday, October 10 at St. Anthony Village High School, ending the Wildcat season.