Mahtomedi captured its third consecutive girls soccer state championship in dramatic fashion Thursday on a pair of penalty kicks late in the match.
The Zephyrs pulled out a 3-2 victory over the Orono Spartans on PK’s after two fouls were called on Orono’s outstanding goalkeeper at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Mahtomedi trailed 2-1 as the clock dipped under 12 minutes, largely due to Clare Gagne’s nimble, tenacious shot-stopping in the net, and her speed and bravado in smothering balls 15 to 25 yards out.
However, Gagne twice miscalculated against Mahtomedi’s fleet, lanky Anna Wagner down the stretch, sliding under the senior forward as she charged at the net, and sending her flying into the turf, at the 11:23 and 3:11 marks.
Penalty kicks were awarded and Mahtomedi was 2-for-2 on the 12-yard, one-on-one shots.
Audrey Sexson grounding the first one inside the post for a 2-2 tie. “Lauren said, you take this one,” Sexson said. “I didn’t panic, I just zoned everything out. I aimed for the corner.” Lauren Heinsch slammed the second into the back of the net for the 3-2 lead. “I knew I was up. We said prayers for each other, I told myself, it’s going in.” Heinsch’s came against backup Molly Martini as Gagne was red-carded for the second foul.
Wagner, who was slow to get up after each fall, was asked where it hurts.
“It hurts all over,” she said, with a smile. “But I knew this would be my last 20 minutes with this team so I was going to give it everything I got.”
Top-ranked Mahtomedi finished 16-2-2 and Orono 15-4-3. This marked Mahtomedi’s third consecutive win over Orono in the state finals, all of them meat-grinders like this one. The Zephyrs won 2-1 in 2017 and 1-0 in overtime in 2018.
After edging Orono in two straight state finals, Mahtomedi was back on its heels in this one.
“With 20 minutes left was preparing for disappointment and what I would say,” coach Dave Wald said. “The girls figured it out on their own.”
Wald called Gagne, who made eight saves, the best goalie he’s seen in years. “She made big play after big play, but it came to the point she got too aggressive,” Wald said.
Orono coach Erin Murray said, “You don’t want to put the goalie in a position like that, where she goes one-on-one with an athlete and has to make that decision. If she stays back and they make the goal then maybe it looks like she is not an aggressive goalie. She did the right thing.”
Gagne, closing her career in her third straight state championship match, was misty-eyed.
“It’s hard to lose three in a row to the same team,” Gagne said. “We wanted to go out with pride and win that last game. Not just for the state championship but for all the memories we’ve made with each other.”
Asked if this had happened before, Gagne said she had a red card in the section finals two years ago.
“In game like this I just go all out and want to do whatever I can for the team,” she said.
Murray added, “That’s the kind of yellow cards we get, playing with heart, never anything cheap or bad.”
Wagner notched Mahtomedi’s first goal as she jumped on a bouncing ball in front of the net and buried at at 27:29 of the first half, Erika Broten assisting.
Orono quickly tied the score as Anna Tessa beat Zephyr goalie Megan Lisowy to the ball 20 yards out and steered it into an open net at 30:28. The pass came from Sadie Koltes.
The Spartans took the lead on a spectacular shot by Megan Narzolf from 35 yards that sailed just under the bar and above the outstretched hand of Lisowy, at 48:14. Lisowy had two saves in the game.
Mahtomedi almost made Gagne pay for her gambling when Ellie McCormick shot at an open net from about 20 yards, after the goalie stopped but did not cover a loose ball, but McCormick’s missive sailed just over the crossbar.
That happened with 12:26 on the clock, but the Zephyrs tied the score 1:03 later on the first PK.
Mahtomedi captured its ninth state championship in 15 trips, improved to 9-1 in state finals, and logged the program’s second three-peat. The first came in 2004-05-06.
This group watched Mahtomedi win state titles growing up.
“In elementary school,” said Heinsch, “when I went to the Metrodome to watch them, and saw all the spirit they had, I knew I wanted to be those girls.”
Playing in their third state championship win were Sexson, Heinsch, Mackenzie Mireault, Anna Wagner, Megan Lisowy, and Abbey Grabow. Sydney Panek, senior who played in two title games, missed this season with injury but assisted the coaches all year.
Playing in their second were Handke, Erika Broten, Rachel McCleery, Anabel Hllstrom, and Ellie McCormick.
Nabbing their first golds were Jojie Barry, Kaia Lifto, Lanie Padelford, McKayla Stockness, Christa Taival, Katelyn Beulke, Cambelle Waldspurger, Paige Janssen, Jenna Eitel, and Alissa Fechter.
Assistant coaches to Wald are Brad Gudenkauf, Greg Karp, Chelsey Henry, and Allison Eitel.