Playing a high-powered Shakopee team in the Section 2AA quarterfinals, Chanhassen boys soccer drew on its experience against No. 1-ranked Edina from the 2019 post-season.
The Storm never backed down, even when facing a two-goal deficit at halftime, giving the South Suburban Conference co-champions all they could handle Oct. 14.
Senior Alex Miller, who Storm coach Kevin Manton said "worked very hard this season," was rewarded for his work, scoring a goal early in the second half to draw Chanhassen within 2-1.
And while the final score remained that way, Manton said the fight the Storm showed in the match represented how they played in a 4-5-3 season.
"It was a fun season even working within these crazy times. Chanhassen AD (Cullen Bahn), staff, coaches, and teams worked hard with safety protocol to ensure we had a successful season," Manton said.
He pointed to a strong senior class that included CJ Claggett, Christian Lange and Michael Henry that had been on the varsity team from their freshman year. Will Anderson, Braeden Sanders and Silver Diaz Ortiz, along from support from Ali Elhadi, Ethan Wolff, Conlan Spencer, and Evan Allen, made the experience memorable after a tough 2019 campaign.
"We worked hard this season on our system of play, based on our strengths and what we learned last year. We benefited with improvement from last season," Manton said.
Chanhassen scored 16 goals to five last season. They also allowed a total of 18 goals to 40 last season. Ben Giles, another senior standout, led the team with four goals.
Manton said there are three moments from the season that stood out. Twice, in a 3-3 tie at St. Louis Park and 3-2 win over Robbinsdale Cooper, Chanhassen rallied from a deficit. Late goals from seniors Giles and Claggett produced positive results.
The post-season goal for Miller, "a complete howler from 25 yards," was well worth waiting two seasons to happen," Manton said.
Chanhassen pushed in the second half, a dart on a last-second free kick from inside the left corner was saved before the final whistle.
John Kroll and Zach Susee, a Mr. Soccer finalist, scored for Shakopee.
"It's emotional to see seniors graduate this year as I have known them throughout their high school soccer experience, but rewarded to see how they have developed as an athlete and a person," Manton said. "We have eight varsity players returning next year and a young JV team who had a very good season only losing once."
Chaska, with maybe its most talented roster since a third-place finish at state in Class A in 2014, entered the post-season with high hopes.
A 9-1-1 record, the program's second Metro West Conference championship. The draw? Always-tough Eden Prairie.
Chaska, trailing in the second half, tied the game at one, but a late Eagle score sent Eden Prairie to the semifinal round in a 2-1 final.
"The section loss versus Eden Prairie was probably the hardest loss I've had as a coach. It is difficult to always play and train like it can be over at any moment, but this was the reality of the season," Chaska coach Michael O'Reilly said. "This unique challenge brought the boys together in a way most years won't ever get to experience. It was a blessing to be part of it and I am thankful to have been part of their lives and this experience."
David Garcia's 19th goal of the season tied the game for Chaska before Eden Prairie found the net on a defensive turnover in the box with 3:15 left.
A left-footed blast from defender Phil Schindler in the final minute clanked off the bottom of the crossbar and out of harm's way.
Though a tough outcome, O'Reilly said the experience of the 2020 season was not lost on the program.
"We are grateful to have had the opportunity to play this fall season. Last spring, many high school athletes didn't get this opportunity. We appreciate and are thankful for all the work our activities department did to help us have this moment and for all the help and support we got from our parents and fans," he said.
Still, having the season end in the quarterfinals, not having a shot at Shakopee, and potentially Edina or Minnetonka down the road, was gut-wrenching for a senior class that included starters Carson Youngman in goal, Schindler and Kyler Kamis on defense, Kaden Alcindor and Josh Wackerfuss in the midfield, and Garcia and Ethan Ducklow on attack.
"It is difficult to see this group of seniors go. Four years ago, they entered our program with high potential. As juniors, after last season, they put together an ambitious plan with high expectations and goals. They took in stride the disruptions and restrictions of COVID-19 and turned it into a positive: they played and trained like every moment on the field was their last. They took nothing for granted, O'Reilly said.
"They can leave this program with pride, knowing they have achieved most of their goals. Their legacy sets a new standard for future players: how to fulfill ones potential while dealing with the unexpected and never taking any moment for granted. We are going to miss this senior class," he said.
It's only natural that when one team wins the first game, the other team wins the rematch, that a third and deciding rubber match take place.
That's what will happen between Edina and Minnetonka in the Section 2AA semifinals at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
The Hornets beat Bloomington Jefferson 4-0, the Skippers beat Prior Lake 3-0.
Dylan Olson, one of five Mr. Soccer finalists, scored twice for Minnetonka, which led 1-0 at halftime. Olson has a team-high 19 goals this season.
Alex Gonkiman also found the net for Minnetonka with Jamie Deneen making one save. The Skippers are 8-3-1 overall.
Each team won on their home field in the regular season (Minnetonka 1-0 on Sept. 14; Edina 2-0 on Oct. 6). The Hornets will host the semifinal at Kuhlmann Stadium.