Girls’ soccer: the long road to their State victory
November 9, 2012
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All of the passion, preparation, and hard-work led to one moment; a key second that would decide whether or not the Red Knights were champions. “I got fouled 30 yards out from the goal, kind of similar to what happened the game before. I got up and Kelly [Pannek] came over to me to give me a pep talk and she was like ‘What are you going to do?’…I just looked at her and was like ‘I’m going to score.” Senior captain Dana Buckhorn lined up, took the shot, and did just what she said: scored the game-winning goal, defeating the Blake Bears 3-2 in overtime for the program’s first state championship, a title years in the making.
The girls’ soccer team had been working towards this game for over a year. Having lost to Blake in the previous season finals, the team wanted their shot at redemption. “Last year it was devastating to lose to Blake in the finals. When you make it that far, the state championship game, you think it will all come together for your team to win, but reality quickly sets in that there is another team that feels the exact same way,” junior midfielder Kelly Pannek said.
“It was awful, we had set our minds on winning, and falling short felt like an utter failure,” senior captain Anne Arnason said.
They had been the best program in the state to never win a title, earning third and fourth place once, respectively, and finishing in second place three times. They’d never claimed the elusive first place crown and had hoped this game would end differently than last year’s. “After losing last year, we knew what it felt like to lose in the state championship. Playing Blake again, we wanted revenge, and we didn’t want to feel the same way…and we didn’t want to be known as a team that chokes in the state final two years in a row,” Pannek said.
With all that motivation and heartbreak from last season, the girls’ soccer team had set their sights on state from the moment tryouts started back in August. “From the very beginning, winning state was our goal…I was really confident that we would pull it off,” senior goalkeeper Annie Michels said.
The team returned many key players, including seniors Haley Jerabek, Anne Arnason, and Dana Buckhorn, giving the team early confidence. That conviction was justified as the girls journeyed through the season the same way they did last year: undefeated. “I think it definitely helped us a lot, but at the same time it could have been a disadvantage, because we weren’t really used to trailing anyone,” Buckhorn said.
In the Red Knights’ first six games, four were won by four goals or more, including a 10-1 lashing of Cloquet High School and an 8-1 victory over Spring Lake Park. The girls continued their dominance throughout the season, ending the year with a record of 15-0-1, their one tie against Blake.
“We have such good chemistry, and the new players fit in so perfectly. From the beginning [everyone] bought into our team style and philosophy. We are all really competitive and our coach [Scott Helling-Christy] does a great job of using that to make us better in practices and games. We also have great leadership in our coaches and captains,” Pannek said.
The Red Knights won each of their section games with ease. The girls’ state opponents, however, would prove to be much more difficult. The girls faced St. Peter and South St. Paul to open the state tournament and needed overtime to defeat both of them.
Close games weren’t something the team, with an average margin of victory of 4.94 goals, was used to, but the girls remained confident. “I just had a feeling we would win. Having come from behind in the semifinal and winning both state games in overtime I knew we could stay composed,” Arnason said.
Blake went up early, scoring the game’s first goal 11 minutes in. “We did a really good job of stayed composed after their goal. Their goal just made us regain focus and start playing smarter,” Buckhorn said.
The Red Knights tied the game fourteen minutes later and took the lead 20 minutes into the second half. A Blake goal tied the game later in the half, ultimately sending the game into overtime. “If they had stayed composed and played the style of soccer that had been successful for them all year, they could win another overtime game,” said coach Scott Helling-Christy.
Nine minutes later, Dana Buckhorn made Benilde St. Margaret’s the champion.
“It is an unbelievable feeling that my last high school soccer memory and last game in a Red Knight uniform was winning the state championship game, especially one against Blake,” Arnason said.
“To be a part of the first team winning a state championship title in BSM girls’ soccer history is so much to take in,” Michels said.
Now, victory is sweet. All of the hard work, training, pain, missed homework, and sacrifice has paid off. Soon a new banner will be hanging in the Haben Center, and the 2012 girls’ varsity soccer team has earned a title that no one can take from them: State Champions.