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Adapted Soccer: Thunderbolts finish fourth at state

Tyler Tinucci of the Thunderbolts breaks loose for a shot attempt on Saturday. Tinucci scored five goals in the third-place game and was named to the all-tournament team. (Photo by John Molene)1 / 3
South Washington Country junior defender Tyler Wylie looks to complete a pass in the first half against Anoka-Hennepin in the third-place game in the 2016 state adapted soccer tournament. (Photo by John Molene)2 / 3
Senior forward Justin Neff tries to get the ball into scoring position in the first half of the third-place game against Anoka-Hennepin Saturday. (Photo by John Molene)3 / 3

South Washington County bounced back from a disastrous semifinal loss to earn a fourth-place trophy in the 2016 state adapted soccer tournament Saturday at Stillwater.

The Thunderbolts won their tournament opener in overtime in the CI Division. But in Saturday's game for third place, they couldn’t hang onto a late lead against Anoka-Hennepin and finished fourth in the tournament, falling 7-6.

“I’m proud of the way they came back after a really, really bad loss in a poor performance,” Thunderbolts coach John Culbertson said.

South Washington County opened with a 7-6 overtime win over Columbia Heights/St. Anthony Village on Friday. But then the Thunderbolts ran into a buzzsaw and dropped a 14-0 decision to eventual tournament champion Park Center in the semifinals.

“We ran into a very, very, very good team,” said Culbertson of the game against Park Center. “And we kind of stopped playing Thunderbolt soccer."

Playing for third Saturday afternoon, the Thunderbolts battled back from a 4-3 halftime deficit to take a 6-4 lead late in the second half against Anoka-Hennepin. But the Mustangs rallied for three straight goals down the stretch to earn the victory.

South Washington County finished 12-2 on the season.

Eighth grader Tyler Tinucci scored five of South Washington County’s six goals, including three straight in the second half to give his team a 6-4 advantage.

“His future is very bright,” said Culbertson. “And we’re going to be riding him for the next couple of years. If I could get everybody to have that tenacity and that willingness to get the dirty work done. I’d love to have 15 Tyler Tinuccis on my team.”

Junior goalie Bryce Smith was heroic in goal Saturday afternoon, and also kicked in the game winner in the overtime win against Columbia Heights in the overtime game Friday.

Tinucci and Smith were both selected to the all-tournament team.

Most of the Thunderbolts return next season, but the team must find replacements for leading scorer Justin Neff and defensive starter Casey Murnan.

“I just told the team that we’re only losing two seniors,” said Culbertson. “Granted it's Casey and Justin. But I think we have talent enough to come back next year and compete for a state championship.”

It was the 19th appearance in the state tournament for the Thunderbolts, who won state titles in 1997, 1998 and 2014 and finished second in 2005 and 2006.

Park Center defeated North Suburban 9-5 for the 2016 title Saturday, the team’s second straight state championship