The Minnehaha Academy girls’ soccer team just seemed to get better and better as the season wore on. And by the time it was all over, the Redhawks were occupying a place they hadn’t been for 23 years.

The second-seeded Redhawks (16-2-2) became state champions for the first time since 1998 on November 6 by defeating fifth-seeded Breck 4-2 to win the state Class A title at U.S. Bank Stadium. It was Minnehaha’s fifth overall trip to state and first since 2004.

The victory didn’t come easy against the Mustangs, who beat top-ranked Holy Family 4-1 in the semifinals. In the final, the Redhawks got two goals each from sophomores Berit Parten and Greta Carlson to take care of business.

Minnehaha coach Bryan Hollaway said his club was beside itself after the win.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “It’s just surreal. You dream about it, but there are so many good teams out there you’re never sure if it’s going to be you.”

The win over the Mustangs was the second for the Redhawks this year in three meetings. The two teams tied once during the regular season, with Minnehaha winning the other contest 3-2.

Hollaway said Breck was a team blessed with good speed and that the Redhawks needed to play a more deliberate game if they hoped to come away with a victory.

“Breck was looking to play the ball long,” he said. “We needed to slow it down, possess the ball and play connected.”

“It’s just surreal,” said coach Bryan Hollaway. “You dream about it, but there are so many good teams out there you’re never sure if it’s going to be you.”

One thing that worked well for the Redhawks, Hollaway said, was sophomore central defender Charlotte Wold playing back deep into her own zone to keep the Mustangs from coordinating attacks on the net.

“She played like a safety (in football),” Hollaway said. “We didn’t want the attack to get organized.”

The Redhawks showed that their game was in good shape when they beat Winona Cotter 4-0 in the semifinals two days earlier. Again it was spark plug forward Parten who stepped up with a goal in the first half and one in the second to give the Redhawks all they needed. But that wasn’t all she did to help her club.

Early in the second half, Minnehaha goalie Ayden Guild drew a yellow card and was required to leave the field. Without even asking, Parten grabbed the goalie gloves and stepped up to face Cotter’s
Olivia Gardner on a penalty shot. Parten made the save.

Hollaway was not the slightest bit upset that Parten had not sought permission to stand in as goalie. “That’s the kind of competitor she is,” he said. “That shows what she’s willing to do to help her team.”

Hollaway said Guild deserved credit for offering encouragement to Parten, who led the team with 47 goals and 23 assists this season, before she went into the nets for the penalty kick. “Ayden talked to her about what to expect,” Hollaway said.

The Redhawks’ season included several challenges that all good teams go through on their journey to the state title. They were beaten in both regular-season contests by Saint Paul Academy, but bounced back to beat them in the section playoffs when the chips were down the most.

“We took away a lot of SPA’s possession in that third game,” Hollaway said.

Minnehaha’s only losses of the season were those two to SPA. And the experiences of those defeats were not lost on the Redhawks coach.

“I’d say that we played our best soccer of the season after we lost those two games,” Hollaway said.

— By Bill Wagner

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