The Minnewaska boys soccer team had a great season in 2023, going 6-6-4 overall and 2-4-2 in the Granite Ridge Conference.
The Lakers, coached by first-year head coach David Vinje, ended the season with a 1-0 double-overtime loss to Melrose Area in the Section 8A quarterfinals.
Melrose was seeded third and the Lakers second in their half of the section. The Dutchmen went on to lose 5-1 to St. Cloud Cathedral in the Section 8A semifinals and the Crusaders earned a state berth with a win over Hillcrest for the section title.
St. Cloud Cathedral, ranked among the top three in state all season, won the conference title with a perfect 8-0 record, followed by Little Falls-LPGE (3-3-2), Minnewaska (2-4-2) and Melrose Area and St. John’s Prep (both 2-5-1).
Seniors lost to graduation from this year’s Laker boys soccer team are Blake Nelson, Thomas Poegel, Connor Quelle, Ethan Curry and Jose Contreras Mondragon, who missed the final third of the season due to an injury.
• Earning All-Conference in the Granite Ridge Conference this year were seniors Blake Nelson and Connor Quelle, and junior goalie Tenzin Dahl, while named to the honorable mention team were seniors Thomas Poegel and Ethan Curry.
Nelson was also named to the All-State team for 2023. The Lakers have had 18 first or second-team All-State players over the past 28 seasons of soccer.
Earning Academic All-Conference in the Granite Ridge Conference (g.p.a. of 3.75 or above) were seniors Ethan Curry, Blake Nelson, Connor Quelle and Thomas Poegel; juniors Chase Smith, Tenzin Dahl, Riley Thorfinnson and Morgan Meyer; sophomores Lane Curry and Lucas Curry; and freshmen Carter LeClair and Ethan Klick.
• During the season-ending banquet held recently the Lakers also announced six team awards to close out the season.
Tenzin Dahl earned the Most Valuable Player award this year, while Blake Nelson won the Golden Boot award for the leading scorer and Connor Quelle won the Most Assists award.
In addition, Thomas Poegel was named the recipient of The Engine Award, while Chase Smith earned Most Improved and Jose Contreras Mondragon won an award for the Goal of the Season as he scored a goal at St. Cloud Cathedral, which was the first goal scored against the Crusaders this season.
• In season-ending statistics, provided by coach David Vinje, Blake Nelson led the Lakers this year with eight goals, while Ryan Greseth had five, Connor Quelle had three, Jose Contreras Mondragon also had three before being injured just past the midway point of the season, Jackson Holmes had two and Connor Erickson, Carter LeClair and Caden Christensen had one each.
Quelle was the leader for assists with 10 of his team’s 18 total assists this season. Nelson and Greseth both added three assists, while Thomas Poegel and Ethan Curry both had one.
• The Lakers started off the season 3-1-4 during the first three weeks of play. The team scored only 11 goals, but also gave up just nine, including three to St. Cloud Cathedral during the only loss in the first eight games, a 3-0 setback at home.
The next three games were losses for the Lakers as they fell to St. John’s Prep on a late own goal (1-0), at SC Cathedral (3-1) and at Little Falls-LPGE (3-0). That dropped the Lakers to 3-4-4 overall.
Minnewaska then went 3-1 over its final four regular-season games, beating Melrose (2-0), Prinsburg (5-1) and St. John’s Prep (5-0), while also losing at Rocori (2-0).
That gave the Lakers a 6-5-4 overall record heading into the playoffs, but Minnewaska was upset in the opening round by Melrose as the Lakers couldn’t overcome the Dutchmen, wind and cold, losing 1-0 in double-overtime.
Overall, the Lakers scored 24 goals, while giving up 20. Ironically, all four ties this season were by 1-1 scores.
• Coach Vinje took over the helm of the boys soccer program from Ted Hill, who retired after serving as head coach for 26 years. Vinje had previously served as head boys coach at Alexandria for at least two seasons and the head girls coach at Willmar for three years.
He was assisted this fall by Caleb Greene (JV) and Jarrid Jergenson (junior high).
Check out more photos in our photo gallery!