River Eagles youth soccer team crowned CIII state champs

First Row (left to right): Brendan Fee, Karl Vogeler, Jacob Keller, Riley Geyen-Helget, Noah Lutes, Chase Graning, Sam Westveer. Second Row: Karsten Williams, Grayson Weckerle-Dietz, Quinten Bianchi, Bailey Geyen-Helget, Logan Klinzman, Mitchell Ward Third Row: Coach Brian Lutes (Max Lutes), Owen Novotny, Cale McDowell, Kade Lammers, Jordan Gruenes, Carter Olson, Coach Ron Fee. (Photo contributed)

First Row (left to right): Brendan Fee, Karl Vogeler, Jacob Keller, Riley Geyen-Helget, Noah Lutes, Chase Graning, Sam Westveer. Second Row: Karsten Williams, Grayson Weckerle-Dietz, Quinten Bianchi, Bailey Geyen-Helget, Logan Klinzman, Mitchell Ward Third Row: Coach Brian Lutes (Max Lutes), Owen Novotny, Cale McDowell, Kade Lammers, Jordan Gruenes, Carter Olson, Coach Ron Fee. (Photo contributed)

When the River Eagles 13 and under boys soccer team qualified for the state tournament, Coach Ron Fee said there wasn’t much of a sense of accomplishment from the boys, rather, more of a sense of anticipation.

Despite what they had already done, they felt there was more to do.

They hadn’t beat Mound-Westonka, their league rival. Instead they got in via a wild card bid.

And they certainly had yet to win state, which had become their top goal.

One week, and some checked off boxes, later, the boys had every reason to celebrate.

The River Eagles went 3-0 at the 13U CIII State Tournament held in Lakeville last weekend, winning both pool play games (including a victory over Mound-Westonka), before toppling Eagan, 4-2, in the state championship game.

“I’m so proud of this team,” said Coach Ron Fee. “We never went into the season thinking this would happen. It just started to happen.”

Fee said it was about halfway into the season when they realized it could be something special.

Still, they had to find a way to get by Mound-Westonka who beat them once in the regular season and once more in the division playoffs.

The River Eagles were given no chance to hide from their nemesis. Playing in a three-team pool at the six-team state tournament, the local team squared off with Mound-Westonka in the opening game.

After falling 1-0 during both earlier season matches, Monticello reversed things in the most important game of the year, pulling out a 1-0 win thanks to a second-half goal from Logan Klinzman and a shutout performance in goal from Quinten Bianchi.

“We played the perfect game,” said Fee, adding that both teams played at a very high level.

“The intensity, the way both teams were playing, it was a very good game.”

In their second pool play game, Monticello took care of business. The Eagles dispatched Woodbury 6-3.

That left just one big game remaining in the season.

The River Eagles were ready. They came out and scored the game’s first goal less than a minute in, jumping all over Eagan. But Eagan bounced back, scoring two goals of their own during the first half and taking a 2-1 lead into the intermission.

Fee knew his team had their work cut out for them against an unbeaten Eagan squad that he said was the hardest working group they’d seen all year. But, he also knew his team had it in them.

“We’ve been a second half team all year,” he said.

And they were once more this weekend. The River Eagles outscored Eagan 3-0 in the second half, pulling away for a 4-2 win. The victors took a whopping 23 shots in the second half, to just four for Eagan.
“We didn’t play a better half [all year],” said Fee.

Most impressively, according to Fee, the boys found success the same way they had all season, by playing as a team.

“The definition of team is there,” he said, mentioning that every single team member recorded a point during the year. “They all work in the team concept. It’s really cool, everybody supports each other.”

Fee, the boys director in the River Eagles organization, is equally excited about the future. By winning the championship, the boys will move up to the CII level next year, joining several other River Eagles teams around their age group in playing at that level.

“Our club is certainly growing,” said Fee. “And our talent level is going up and up.”

The River Eagles finished the season with a record of 17-3.

 

Contact Clay Sawatzke at clay.sawatzke@ecm-inc.com

 

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