by Dennis Dalman
Minnesota State Soccer Coach of the Year Cassandra Raehsler will lead her team, the Sartell Sabres, to its second consecutive Class A state tournament at the end of this month.
Raehsler, who was named girls soccer coach just last year, was recently honored with that state title from the Minnesota State High School Soccer Coaching Association, which also named her Section 8 Coach of the Year, the state section of which the Sabres are a part. The girls now have a 13-3-4 season record.
Last week, the Sabres won the Section 8 tournament in Alexandria when they defeated East Grand Forks 4-3.
Their winning game was a nail-biter, according to Raehsler. It was a tie game early on 2-2, then after Sabre Amanda Flemming scored a penalty kick later, the game was tied again 3-3. At that point, the game had to go into overtime, with each team getting five chances to shoot more goals. Sartell made the first two shots. East Grand Forks missed its second shot. By shot four, that team had missed twice. Sartell, making its first four shots, won, negating the need for a fifth.
The game also included a goal by Sabre Olivia Garner and a save by Allie Hemmesch.
“People cheered, and it was so loud,” Raehsler said. “So loud! There was a great group of (Sabres) fans there, jumping up and down and hugging each other.”
There are 21 girls on the Sabres’ soccer roster.
As of Newsleader press time Wednesday, the Sabres were scheduled to play Minneapolis-Washburn, which has a season record of 18-0-0 at Musky Field on the St. Cloud State University campus. The state tournament game will take place at Musky Field because its usual venue, the Metrodome, no longer exists.
At last year’s state tournament, the Sabres lost early on to Blake in the first round of tourney play. This year, Raehsler said, the girls are pumped up, ready to give it their all.
During an Oct. 18 interview with the Sartell Newsleader, Raehsler raved up her team.
“They’re amazing!” she said. “Those girls worked so hard for this (Section 8) win the whole year so they definitely deserved it. They’re so excited to get another chance at the state championship.”
Raehsler credited the three team captains for much of the success: Greta Evavold, Mac Nies and Abby Spanier.
“They are dedicated, great players and – most importantly – great leaders for the team,” she said. “The team chemistry this year is just phenomenal. There’s nobody on the team with a selfish bone in her body. They know the way to get there is to work together.”
After its section win, the team and Raehsler were all honored at a banquet in St. Paul, the team for its win and Raehsler for her Coach of the Year honors.
At the state tournament eight teams (both boys and girls) will compete. The competing girls’ teams, besides the Sabers, are Albert Lea, Dover-Eyota, Hill-Murray, Orono, Park Center, Princeton and Minneapolis-Washburn.
There are eight sections in the state. Since those teams are each from a different section, the Sabres have not yet played any of them.
After the semi-finals the final game will take place Thursday, Oct. 30. Buoyantly confident and optimistic, Raehsler predicted the two opponents on that day will be the Sartell Sabres vs. Orono.