Neff’s goal propels Lourdes to section championship, first trip to state since 2015


Oct. 20—(Editor’s Note: This story will be updated later tonight with comments from coaches and players.)

Sean Kane might have as hard a time as anyone believing it: The seniors on this year’s Rochester Lourdes boys soccer team were in fifth grade the last time the Eagles had qualified for the state tournament.

That’s a long dry spell for a program that, for decades, was accustomed to making annual trips north in late October.

That dry spell is over for head coach Kane and the Eagles, thanks to a team led by those kids who were fifth-graders in 2015, the last time Lourdes qualified for the Class A state tournament. Lourdes made history Tuesday, earning the 15th trip to state in program history with a 2-0 victory against Dover-Eyota in the Section One, Class A championship match at Rochester Regional Stadium.

After a half-dozen chances from close range in the first half, Lourdes finally broke through with just more than 2 minutes remaining before halftime. Senior midfielder Trent Neff corralled a loose ball behind the Dover-Eyota defense and fired it to the far side of D-E keeper Logan Behnken for a 1-0 lead.

That’s how the score remained until 5:20 remained in the second half, when Lourdes’ Sam Theobald found himself alone behind the D-E defense and didn’t miss on his opportunity. The freshman fired the ball into an open side of the net for an insurance goal that allowed Lourdes and its fans to breathe a little easier.

Behnken did a solid job of keeping D-E in the match, making 11 saves as Lourdes (9-8-2 overall) dominated ball possession for much of the first half and a good portion of the second half.

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Dover-Eyota (12-5-2 overall) had a couple of chances in the first half, including a header from close range by Brodie Kellen that Lourdes goalie Freddie Suhler stopped. In the second half, Lourdes freshman defender Tyzion Morris also broke up two potential scoring chances by getting in a passing lane and preventing D-E from getting the ball to the middle of the field.

Lourdes, which last went to state in 2015, was playing in the Section 1A final for the fourth time in the past five years. It had lost its previous three appearances by one goal each time, all against Austin.

Last season, Lourdes was upset in the first round of the section playoffs by Caledonia.

Dover-Eyota, though playing in a section final for only the second time in program history, had a bit of a big-match advantage over Lourdes on Tuesday. D-E played in last year’s section final, against Austin, losing a heartbreaker on penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 draw. D-E had some opportunities to win that match in overtime, including off a corner kick in the second OT, but Austin managed to prevail for a fourth straight season.

With the new three-class system in Minnesota high school soccer, Austin moved up to Class AA this fall, clearing a path for Lourdes and D-E to both return to the section final.

Both teams entered averaging a shade more than 2 goals per match (D-E at 2.2, Lourdes at 2.1). D-E had the better record, at 13-4-2; Lourdes entered with an 8-8-2 mark, though five of its losses had come against teams ranked in the top 10 in the state and it was 6-0-0 against Section 1A opponents.

That mark included Lourdes’ 1-0 win against Dover-Eyota on Sept. 27 in Rochester. In that match, Lourdes’ McKaid Schotzko scored the only goal, 6:30 into the game, and Evan Leeser had a four-save shutout.

Lourdes also brought a two-game winning streak into Tuesday’s match, its only winning streak of the season. D-E had won six in a row prior to the section final and was 8-1-1 in its past 10 matches.



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