In sports, as in life, timing is everything.
And the Magic boys soccer team appears to be timing things just right.
Monticello begins postseason play today after ending the regular season on a roll, winning their last three and going unbeaten over their last six.
They’ve also timed the run during a year where they’re in a new section and out of the shadow of Class A powerhouses Totino-Grace and Prairie Seeds Academy.
For their timing, and their hot stretch, the Magic have been rewarded with the second seed, out of 15 teams, in Section 7A.
“It’s kind of a nice surprise,” admitted Coach Chad Carlson. “The season has been kind of up and down.”
But lately, it’s been much more up.
Monticello ended the regular season with three big wins, none bigger than a 2-1 victory over Chisago Lakes, the No. 1 seed in 7A.
“That’s a big confidence booster,” said senior Brody Grantz. “We can play with anyone.”
Monticello’s style, possession soccer with an added emphasis on stingy defense, has given anyone and everyone fits in recent weeks.
“The defense is really peaking,” said Carlson. “We’re just a really tough team to score against right now.”
Carlson said that his stalwarts in the middle have been Taylor Modaff, Jordan Wik and Zach Nordin. But the beauty of the defense is that so many different players have stepped up on different days.
During their six-game unbeaten streak, the Magic have allowed just three goals total.
The defense also benefits from the offensive style of possession soccer, which relies on keeping the ball off the foot of the other team.
In year two of playing possession style, the players have started to fully embrace it, and the results have been noticeable.
“We hold onto the ball really well,” said Grantz. “Playing with the older guys last year truly helped.”
Junior Alex Johnson said other teams have had a tough time adjusting to Monticello’s style.
“It’s something a lot of teams don’t know how to deal with,” said Johnson. “They don’t know how to defend it or play against it.”
The area where the Magic are still looking for the most improvement is in finishing the chances the offense generates.
Despite controlling play through much of their six-game unbeaten streak, the Magic averaged just 1.5 goals per game during that stretch.
“We have to create so many opportunities to finish one or two goals,” said Carlson. “But, they always find a way to get one or two.”
Like with the defense, the Magic offense hasn’t had one person they look to for those big goals.
Ryan McGowan and Zach Beaumaster lead the team in scoring, but Carlson says it has been a by-committee approach.
“Everybody kind of chips in,” he said.
Right now, everybody seems to have bought in for the Magic. As they approach section play, they have one goal in mind, their first-ever state tournament appearance.
“Monti has always been pretty good at soccer, to add a [state tournament berth] would be awesome,” said Grantz. “It makes you want to work that much harder.”
Monticello opens with a home game at 4:30 p.m. today versus North Lakes Academy, the fifteen seed. With a win, Monticello would move on to the quarterfinal game, which would also be held at home, Saturday, likely at 2 p.m.
The semifinal game, which would also be at home, is tentatively scheduled for 4:45 p.m. Tuesday.
For a full section bracket, visit the Minnesota State High School League website.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at firstname.lastname@example.org