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Adapted soccer: Thunderbolts punch ticket to big dance

The South Washington Thunderbolts adapted soccer team punched its ticket to the state tournament with a 9-5 playoff win over St. Cloud last week at East Ridge High School.

The Thunderbolts have stuck again.

The South Washington Thunderbolts adapted soccer team - a mix of student-athletes from East Ridge, Park and Woodbury - punched its ticket to the state tournament with a 9-5 playoff win over St. Cloud last week at East Ridge High School.

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, under the leadership of a new head coach - longtime assistant John Culbertson - the Thunderbolts are back.

"We didn't know much about St. Cloud," Culbertson said. "They were at state last year and they have scored some nice wins this year. You can't over-look anyone this time of the year; it's a one-and-done playoff system. So, we prepared the kids to only concentrate on this game. This one day. Nothing else mattered. We wanted to show St. Cloud our 'A' game. There was a nice crowd gathered and we had a convincing team victory."

In its playoff win over St. Cloud on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the Thunderbolts' front line of Amanda Henderson, Tristan Rankin and Dylan Kubitschek supplied 33 shots, seven goals and three assists in the win.

Rankin, a sophomore, led the way for the 'Bolts with four goals and one assist. Henderson, a junior, had a goal and two assists and Kubitschek, a sophomore, notched a pair of goals. In addition, sophomore Lucas Fiedler also scored two goals for the Thunderbolts, while senior Alice Liu had an assist and junior goalie Thomas "TJ" Jarosiewicz made 14 saves.

All the seniors on the Thunderbolts also saw action in the game.

The Thunderbolts finished the season 7-2-1 overall and earned the third seed out of the CI South in the state tournament.

On the year, Rankin paced South Washington County with 21 regular-season goals, while Henderson, a co-captain along with Liu, added 19 goals for the Thunderbolts. Jarosiewicz played in every game and has a save percentage of 80 percent. As a team, the Thunderbolts score an average of 6.5 goals per game and 3.6 goals a game.

Now, South Washington Country moves onto the state tournament, where the Mustangs of Anoka-Hennepin are looking for their third consecutive championship in the CI Division.

The tournament will be conducted Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17, at Stillwater High School.

The 'Bolts drew Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville, the No. 2 seed out of the CI North in the first round. The two teams will face off at 8 p.m. in Gym B.

Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville (9-1) is hoping to improve on last year's fourth-place showing. If the Rams win it would be their third overall CI title. They won previously in 1995 and 1996. This year's team averaged 8.5 goals per game and their opponents averaged 3.7 against them. Senior Bruce Matusovic scored 35 goals for the Rams during the regular season and senior Brady Morcomb added nine more. Senior goalie John Paulsen allowed 28 goals over eight games and has a 0.84 save percentage.

In the state tournament, Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville is the No. 1 seed in the South Division and Park Center is the top seed in the North Division.

Championship semifinal games are scheduled for noon on Saturday, with the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. and the championship game at 4 p.m. In the consolation bracket the semifinal games will be played on Saturday at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., with the consolation title match scheduled for 1:45 p.m.