The Orono Men’s Soccer team prevailed as the 2020 Class 6A Section Champions. With an impressive run in the Section Tournament, the team produced 17 goals, conceded only two, and three of the four games resulted in a clean sheet. While playing for the hopes of a State Tournament that did not materialize, the Spartans ended the season playing their best soccer including a dominant win over Waconia in the Section Championship game.
Keeping with the tradition of “section haircuts,” and with some players unrecognizable by the fans, the Spartans hosted Rockford that resulted in a 6-0 victory. While controlling the match from the beginning it would take 18 minutes for Brody Cook to find Andy Dewitt to start the Spartans scoring. Will Johnston followed with a low driven penalty kick off a hand ball in the box to increase the score to 2-0. The third goal of the half came from a Ben Halloff signature long throw in the box that gave Orono a comfortable lead. Starting quickly in the second half, Andy Dewitt connected with Brody Cook who tapped it over the keeper on the left for the fourth goal. Three minutes later Ben Halloff delivered a cross from the right that Finn Rohrer scored for the fifth goal. Ethan Hawkins scored his first varsity goal as he cleaned up a rebound in the box. Joseph Kropinak, Nate Halloff, Leif Johnson, Christian Kavanagh, Aiden Ecker, and Sebastian Loder entered the second half that advanced Orono to the quarterfinal.
Next the Spartans took on an aggressive Willmar team that typically has the potential to upset the higher seeded teams. While Orono had the edge on possession, Willmar continued to play hard resulting in fouls and several yellow cards being issued. Orono’s first goal came off a hand ball in the box, Will Johnston completed the PK with the keeper guessing incorrectly. Ben Summers dropped back to defense and assisted in locking down the Willmar attack. Sam Carlson, Sebastian Loder, and Holder Scharf solidly fought off the long ball outbreaks and distributed to the midfield. Jamie Bazil, Brody Cook, and Matias Maule proved to be too quick drawing fouls for tackles from behind and free kick chances for Orono. Andy Dewitt scored the second goal following a free kick from 30 yards out with the assist from Brody Cook. Peter Nicklow energetically controlled the game in goal with key saves and held Willmar scoreless. The Spartans advanced to the semi-final game with a score of 2-0.
With several delays due to snow in October, the Spartans hosted the Southwest Christian Stars for the semi-final section match on Friday, Oct. 23. Southwest Christian generated attacks first with a shot that hit the crossbar and a set piece requiring Peter to make the save. Orono countered with a brilliant finish from Brody Cook as he beat the defender at the top of the box and delivered a bar down left footed strike in the 33 minute. Will Johnston followed with a PK that while the keeper guessed correctly blasted past his outreached arm. Andy crossed to Brody who headed in the third goal. Will Johnston connected with Andy Dewitt for the fourth tally. Southwest Christian responded with a goal from a long throw in and Orono unable to control in their box. Peter Nicklow faced his toughest action of the season and responded with as one parent described his “sticky hands” to pull in the lofted free kicks, corner kicks, and attempted shots. Jamie Bazil delivered a free kick that Cal Ehlen headed in for a commanding 5-1 lead at halftime. Southwest Christian continued to play out the entire game and added a goal in the second half off a corner kick. The game would conclude at 5-2 placing Orono in the championship match.
In an awaited rematch from an earlier season meeting with Waconia that resulted in a 1-1 draw, the Orono Men’s Soccer team look determined from the start. There would be not be a celebration from Waconia for a last minute tie. The day would belong to the Orono Men’s Soccer team to enjoy a convincing and commanding 4-0 performance. The Spartans attacked early and often keeping the goalie alert with opportunities generated from Brody, Andy, Jamie, Will, and Finn. With ten minutes left in the half, Waconia committed a foul in the box resulting in a PK. Andy confidently lined up the kick and finished for his first of three goals on the day. To add to the momentum at half-time, Jamie Bazil launched a ball from mid-field that Andy headed in, sending the score to 2-0 with less than a minute to play. Orono continued the possession in the second half, driving into the attacking third and forcing another foul in the box. Will Johnston calmly finished the PK raising the score to 3-0. Waconia attempted to regroup following the PK but the Spartans remained focused and relentless. Andy saved his best goal of the day for the hat trick as he skillfully separated from the defender at the top of the box and found the top left corner. Sam Carlson, Cal Ehlen and Ben Summers locked down the center on defense and Holden Scharf, Ben Halloff, and Jack Tanner controlled the outside runs. Matias Maule, Christian Kavanagh, Aiden Ecker, and Ethan Hawkins provided the depth to secure the victory. A complete match from the Spartans on both sides of the pitch with a total team win.
Head Coach Derek Engler summarized the season, “I am so proud of the progress this team made from our 1-1-2s start to our 10-1 finish. We were playing the best soccer that an Orono team has seen in years and I don’t feel there was a team that could stop us with how complete we were playing over the past few weeks. The obstacles these boys overcame this season to succeed will create memories that last a lifetime!”