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2016 preview: New Life Academy boys soccer enters season with high expectations

The New Life Academy boys soccer team returns the core of last year’s Minnesota Christian Athletic Association regular-season champion squad.

That nucleus features 20 upperclassmen, including multiple key players from the 2015 squad.

New Life Academy coach Robb Rupp said four seniors and 15 juniors were among the 31 kids going out for the team. It's a squad that returns three of its leading scorers in senior captain Jack Flavin, and juniors Nate Mueller and Evan Atkinson.

“To have 15 in one grade is just massive, and on top of it we have some pretty talented players this year,” Rupp said. “I think we should improve upon what we did last year.”

Last year’s squad won its first MCAA title since 2007 before losing to Southwest Christian on penalty kicks in the conference tournament championship game.

Rupp said the conference has added two schools this year and won’t have a conference tournament. That will ensure schools can play games against section opponents.

The Eagles lost in the first round of last year’s Class A, Section 1 tournament to Richfield in a game that came down to one botched play, Rupp said. He said the team is looking forward to its Oct. 1 rematch with Richfield.

In addition, the team will play section opponent Simley on Sept. 24 for its homecoming game. The Spartans outplayed the Eagles in their regular-season matchup last year, Rupp said, but New Life Academy played to a 3-3 tie.

“They were heavily favored and they should have won that game,” Rupp said. “I’m confident that it won’t be as one-sided as it was last year.”

Rupp said his players are anticipating a “positive” season in 2016 but added that success isn’t necessarily a given.

“There’s great potential, but it has to be through hard work and focus,” he said. “The challenge is up to them to make good on what they think could happen, and that takes dedication and perseverance and focus.”

New Life Academy is scheduled to begin the season Thursday vs. St. Paul Harding. Conference play is set to begin Sept. 8 vs. St. Croix Preparatory Academy.

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