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Thunderstruck: South Washington County adapted soccer team earns third place in state

South Washington County senior Amanda Henderson holds the third-place trophy the Thunderbolts earned Saturday at the adapted soccer CI state tournament at Stillwater. South Washington County beat Anoka-Hennepin 6-3 for third place. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt) 1 / 4
The Thunderbolts pose with their third-place trophy and medals following a 6-3 victory over Anoka-Hennepin. It was the Thunderbolts’ first medal-earning win since 2006. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt)2 / 4
South Washington County senior goalie Thomas Jarosiewicz rolls the ball after a save Saturday at the adapted soccer CI state tournament in Stillwater. Jarosiewicz made 21 saves in a 6-3 win over Anoka-Hennepin in the third-place game. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt)3 / 4
South Washington County junior Dylan Kubitschek plays a ball Saturday at the adapted soccer CI state tournament in Stillwater. Kubitschek scored eight goals on the day to help lead the Thunderbolts to a third-place finish. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt) 4 / 4

It may not have been ideal, but the South Washington County Thunderbolts had a reason to celebrate at the adapted soccer CI state tournament in Stillwater.

The Thunderbolts (11-1-1) earned a third-place finish with a 6-3 victory over Anoka-Hennepin Saturday to bring some hardware back to south Washington County.

The third-place win came after a heart-breaking 9-8 overtime loss to Park Center in the semifinals. However, the season-ending victory allowed the Thunderbolts to finish the year in the best possible way.

“If we weren’t going to win it and instead of losing the championship game, this is just as good,” assistant coach Bruce Fiedler said.

In the third-place game, South Washington County junior Dylan Kubitschek scored three goals, junior Tristan Rankin scored twice and eighth-grader Bryce Smith had another goal for the Thunderbolts to give the team its first medal since 2006. It was the second-straight trip to the state tournament for South Washington County – a mix of players from East Ridge, Park and Woodbury high schools. The Thunderbolts’ season ended last year with a loss in the consolation finals with a 5-4 loss to North Suburban.

“It definitely feels good coming off our consolation loss last year,” said Kubitschek, who was a force for the Thunderbolts at state, finishing the day with eight goals in two games.

In the third-place game, Rankin broke a 3-3 tie in the second half with a goal off a direct kick while Kubitschek and Smith added goals as the Thunderbolts pulled away in the second half.

Senior Thomas Jarosiewicz made 21 saves for South Washington County. Both teams entered as the top-seeded teams for their divisions.

“It’s really all about our goalie,” Thunderbolts head coach John Culbertson said. “He got me a little angry when he was going down all the time. I said, ‘You gotta stand up.’ But he’s like a Dominik Hasek in hockey, you just let him do his bit because it’s working. I don’t want to change whatever’s working.”

Jarosiewicz also came up big in the semifinal matchup with the Pirates by making 26 saves in the loss.

Park Center senior Kevin Hofer was a one-man show for the Pirates in the game, scoring five goals, including the go-ahead goal to make it 8-7 with 2 minutes, 30 seconds left to play. However, Thunderbolts sophomore Austin Sager scored with 30 seconds left in regulation to tie the game 8-8 and force overtime.

In the golden-goal overtime, Park Center eighth-grader Paige Faber scored 2:28 into the extra period to beat South Washington County after the whirlwind conclusion to regulation. 

In the loss, Rankin scored the first two goals for South Washington County and Kubitschek scored the next five goals.

Park Center junior Aaron Clark, new to goaltending duties for the Pirates, made 29 saves for the win.

The Thunderbolts captains held a players’ only meeting after the semifinal loss to gather the team to prepare for their next opponent and wanted to end the season on a high note.

“It was a nail-biter, but the team came back together,” Kubitschek said. “We all bonded together as a family tonight and we earned it.”

Building the team as a family was a consistent theme this season for South Washington County and the players celebrated as a family after the third-place victory.

“They’re really embracing the family,” Culbertson said. “We are a very, very close team so it’s a tough one to say goodbye to some of these kids. I couldn’t be more happy or proud of the way they battled back and just played together as a team.”

To start the state tournament, the Thunderbolts beat fourth-seeded Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville 9-0 in the opening round. 

Smith scored four goals, Rankin and senior John Stutelberg each scored two, and senior Sam Baumann added one goal to lead the Thunderbolts to the win.

Seven seniors will graduate from the team this season – Baumann, Stutelberg, Jarosiewicz, Lorenzo Green, Amanda Henderson, Nick Menard and Marcus Rumpca.

-Nick Gerhardt