Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa avenged a loss to top-seeded St. Cloud Cathedral with a 1-0 victory in double overtime Wednesday in the Class 1A boys soccer state tournament semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"As a team we knew we did not perform our best," Wildcats senior Christopher Tree said about that 2-0 loss to the Crusaders on Sept. 28. "We were hungry for this one. We didn't think, 'Oh great, they already beat us.' We just thought we didn't play well. Let's go out there and show them who we are. We have no expectations as the lowest seed. So we could go out there and surprise them. We were the better team."
Sophomore Kirt Rude chipped a short shot over Crusaders goalkeeper Noah Henderson with 5:53 left. He said he was determined not to miss a second time after an earlier opportunity went awry.
"I didn't really think about what happened," Rude said. "I just looked over and thought it went in, but there was a guy right there ready to kick it out. I was just really excited to help my team go to the state final."
The fourth-seeded Wildcats (15-2-2) had more opportunities and drove more of the play but had trouble getting shots on Henderson. He didn't have to make a save until the 7:10 mark of the second half.
"It's very hard to get past a team that has that good of defense," Rude said. "We just had to play smart, look for the options and then execute."
The Crusaders (20-1-0) had their own struggles getting the ball on net. Wildcats goalkeeper Lucas Sems was forced to make only three saves, including one in overtime.
Cathedral coach Alex Hess knew one play either way could be the difference between playing for first or third place.
"Honestly, it was a coin flip," Hess said. "If we played them 10 times, I think it would be split 5-5."
St. Paul Academy 2, Holy Family 1 (OT)
Second-seeded Holy Family and third-seeded St. Paul Academy waited through four overtime games for their chance to play Wednesday. And then they played some overtime of their own.
Ethan Peltier scored with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the first overtime session, giving defending champion St. Paul Academy a 2-1 victory in the second Class 1A semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The junior found a loose ball off a pinballing rebound in front of Fire goalkeeper Jackson Baker and scored.
"I was really nervous to get out there and play in overtime," Peltier said. "[The ball] just ended up at the doorstep right in front of me. It got to me and I heard players yell, 'Shoot it!' So, I just did it."
Liam Sullivan knocked a rebound past Baker with 16:24 left in the first half to get the Spartans (13-4-3) on the board first.
The Fire (13-4-3) threatened to get the equalizer but could not get anything past Spartans goalkeeper Cooper Olson until the middle of the second half. Jas Czeneszew got his head on a corner kick from Thomas Laaksonen and popped it over Olson with 27:42 left.
The Spartans missed the net on a pair of shots inside the final three minutes of regulation.
The Spartans' situation this season is similar to last season: They are an unlikely favorite in the final Friday against fourth seed Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa. Last season St. Paul Academy reached the final as a fourth seed and defeated unseeded St. Anthony.
"Last year we definitely expected to win," senior Orion Kim said. "This year we lost 11 or 12 seniors. We weren't sure how the season was going to go. As it progressed we got so much more comfortable as a team and built a brotherhood. We expect the same this Friday. There is no doubt in my mind that if we play our best game, we will win the game."