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Adapted soccer: Thunderbolts take sixth in state

Senior Alice Liu and the Thunderbolts earned sixth place at the 2012 State Adapted Soccer Tournament, held Nov. 16-17 at Stillwater Area High School.1 / 3
The Thunderbolts celebrate after their overtime win over Anoka-Hennepin in the state consolation semifinals.2 / 3
Sophomore Dylan Kubitschek scored four goals -- including the game-winner in OT -- to help South Washington County beat Anoka-Hennepin 5-4 in overtime at state.3 / 3

In its return to the state tournament, the South Washington County Thunderbolts provided some fireworks.

The 'Bolts finished in sixth place at the 2012 State Adapted Soccer Tournament, held Nov. 16-17 at Stillwater Area High School.

South Washington County -- a mix of student-athletes from East Ridge, Park and Woodbury high schools -- fell 6-1 to Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville to start the tournament, then bounced back with a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over Anoka-Hennepin, before falling 5-4 to North Suburban in the consolation championship game of the CI division.

"We went into the season with the goal of making it to the state tournament," said first-year head coach John Culbertson - a former longtime assistant. "Only one of our players (Alice Liu) has ever played in the state soccer tournament, so they didn't know what to expect. There was so much fight and grit and determination and teamwork. It was really, really wonderful to see them get rewarded. Whatever happened in the consolation match was just icing on the cake."

Under former head coach Dennis "coach Denny" Larson, the Thunderbolts soccer team reached 14 straight state tournaments from 1996 to 2010. However, last year -- Larson's final as head coach -- the 'Bolts fell short of state, losing its playoff game to Mounds View amidst a 4-5 season.

But, this year, the Thunderbolts returned to the big dance.

In this year's state tournament, the Thunderbolts, seeded third out of the CI South, fell 6-1 to the Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville Rams - the second seed out of the CI North - in the first round.

Bruce Matusovic scored three goals for Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville while Ted Snyder, Brady Morcomb and Joshua Hayes each scored once to help lead the Rams to victory. Tristan Rankin scored the lone goal for the

Thunderbolts while goalie Thomas "T.J." Jarosiewicz stopped 22 shots in net.

"(Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville) had a very commendable record," Culbertson said. "We just wanted to get the kids that experience. We played well and the kids got valuable playing time and experience."

Facing elimination in the consolation semifinals, however, the 'Bolts bounced back. South Washington County beat Anoka-Hennepin 5-4 in overtime, behind four goals by sophomore Dylan Kubitschek - including the game-winner in OT.

Kubitschek, who scored two goals in the regular season, said it was the best game he's ever played.

"I woke up this morning and I was motivated," Kubitschek said. "I said I was going to win this game for our team. The coaches told me they needed a good game out of me out there and look what happened. (Amanda Henderson) has been pushing me all season to be more aggressive. Now when push comes to shove I'm getting down and dirty."

In the back-and-forth game, South Washington County held a 5-4 lead with three minutes remaining after Kubitschek scored his third goal. But, less than 30 seconds later, Anoka-Hennepin -- the fourth seed out of the CI North -- tied it 5-5 and the teams headed to overtime.

Six minutes into the golden-goal extra period, Kubitschek delivered the game-winner on a shot that squeaked by the Mustangs' goalie.

"It feels really good to win the game," Kubitschek said. "I didn't think it was going to go in. I just saw it bounce off a couple people and it went in. It shocked me. I've never played an overtime thriller like that."

In addition to Kubitschek, Amanda Henderson and Rankin each scored a goal Jarosiewicz stopped 19 shots for the win. For the Mustangs, Addese Ferguson-Mason scored three goals, Dillon Domeier and Joe VonMende scored once each and Jeff Shogren made 18 saves.

Culbertson said the most intense game he's ever been a part of was in 2006 when Joey Lovitz scored an overtime winner against Dakota United to put the 'Bolts into the state championship game, but that this was the second-best.

"It was so intense, start to finish," Culbertson said. "Those kids rose to the occasion unlike any other time this season. I can't remember a team effort like that. I'm just so happy they got that taste of victory."

In the fifth-place game sophomore Sara Parkos scored with 47 seconds remaining to give the North Suburban Cougars the consolation championship in the CI division.

Saras' goal came less than one minute after Kubitschek tied the game for the Thunderbolts. For the Cougars, the third seed out of the CI North, Anthony Bengtson scored twice and Hannah Koran and Cody Jacobsen once each to put them up 4-2 at the half.

For the Thunderbolts, In addition to Kubitschek, Henderson, Hayley Carriere and Sam Baumann scored goals and Jarosiewicz made 15 saves to set up the exciting finish.

"It was very evenly matched," Culbertson said. "It was very intense and very physical. There were lots of bloody noises, bruises and scrapes. The kids really left everything on the floor. Now the kids know what it takes to get to the state tournament and to win a game at the state tournament. The next goal is to win that first game and make a run at a state championship."

Jarosiewicz was named to the all-tournament team for his performance at state.

South Washington County finished the season 8-4-1 overall.

The Thunderbolts must now say good-bye to five seniors - team co-captain Alice Liu, Amber Hagan, Annalise Linder, Hayley Carriere and Mike Ruland.

"These seniors have kind of been through it all," Culbertson said. "We've had good years and so-so years and were with us this year as we've been building it back up. The seniors kind of epitomize the Thunderbolt philosophy of doing things the right way and working hard as a team. We're in it for each other and they've been great leaders and great examples for the younger kids to look up to."