John’s Journal: Michigan Is Getting A Two-Sport State Champion
Benilde-St. Margaret’s Olson Returns To Soccer And ‘The Family’
Posted: Friday, November 3, 2023 - 6:43 PM
Olivia Olson is one of the best-known high school athletes in Minnesota, but not so much for soccer. But there she was, playing in goal for Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Friday in the Class 2A state championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium. She pitched a shutout as the Red Knights defeated defending champ Holy Angels 1-0.
Her main sport is basketball. The 6-foot-1 Olson led Benilde-St. Margaret’s to a state championship on the court last winter and is hoping to repeat in her upcoming senior basketball season before playing collegiately at the University of Michigan.
She was on the Red Knights varsity soccer team as an eighth-grader, missed her ninth-grade season with an injury and helped the team finish second at state when she was a sophomore. She focused on basketball and recruiting as a junior but returned to soccer this fall. It was an easy decision, she said.
“These are like all my best friends on the team and I just wanted to do something else, as well,” she said. “I knew a lot of the (soccer) returners who were coming back and just wanted to have fun with all my best friends. You can kind of see how big of a family it is. And that helped us, everyone stuck together and that's kind of why I wanted to do this.”
Olson made seven saves in the championship game. The biggest came midway through the first half when Holy Angels was awarded a penalty kick. The Stars’ Ellen Neuharth booted the ball to Olson’s right side, and Olivia made the stop.
She said the Michigan basketball coaches were in favor of her playing soccer, and she received a text from them after Friday’s game.
“They're like my biggest supporters,” she said. “They were watching the game (online) and they're really happy for me.”
201st State Title Is A Big One
When the Edina boys golf team won the Class 3A state championship last spring, it was the 200th state title in school history (including MSHSL and non-MSHSL sports and activities).
No. 201 followed pretty quickly, with the Hornets edging Wayzata 2-1 on Friday to win the 3A girls soccer crown and complete a perfect 22-0 season. It was Edina’s first championship in girls soccer in 37 years, and the celebration included new headgear.
After the on-field awards ceremony, the Hornets players and coaches wore white ballcaps with “State Champions” in green on one side and “#201” in gold on the other side.
The Hornets have finished second at state three times, including last year. The school’s only previous state title in girls soccer came in 1986, and members of that team were on hand for Friday’s game.
Senior Izzy Engle, who scored both goals Friday, said making history was special.
“We’re playing with our best friends. We all play in clubs and you play with girls from different cities and it's really fun. But the idea of playing for not only your school, but also your community; and there's all these little girls, we were just like them. Now, to be a graduating senior in this position, holding up that trophy, it's just like an unmatched feeling. And it is something that you hope for since you're little.”
Engle, who finished the season with 43 goals in 22 games, will play college soccer at Notre Dame.
Edina had defeated Wayzata 7-2 in the final game of the regular season, with Engle scoring three times in that game.
“You cannot stop the top player in the state who has those skills and that kind of speed,” said Wayzata coach Tony Peszneker. “We knew it had to be a team effort. We talked about doubling her and getting help and tucking in the inside and making sure we stayed as compact as we could be. But you know when you have a player of those abilities, she's going to get her chances. … that just speaks volumes to the ability level that she has. At any given point, if you're not on her she'll turn the game by herself.”
Kenny The Bus Driver’s Pregame Speech
In most movies and TV shows about big games, an inspirational pregame speech is often part of the story. That was in the script for the Hill-Murray boys soccer team, which won the Class 2A state title with a 3-0 win over Orono on Friday.
In this case, the speech didn’t come from a coach or a player. It came from the Pioneers’ bus driver.
Kenny Sundberg is well-known at the Maplewood school. He drives lots of teams to games and sometimes offers words of wisdom. That’s what he did Friday.
“He talked quite a bit,” said Pioneers senior Jacob Dinzeo. “This morning we came to school and we were eating breakfast. And of course he sneaks in and everyone calms down. He was telling us, ‘You only get this opportunity once, maybe twice, in your life. You’ll enjoy every single moment.’ Kenny’s the best.”
Coach Jeff Zupfer, who recorded his 100th career win Friday, said, “He’s a legend. He literally is a guy who drives the bus for most Hill-Murray sports. When kids go to graduation, Kenny is sitting on the Cathedral steps in his Hill-Murray hat. He gives every kid a hug. He’s just one of those guys that's legendary.”
The Pioneers finished second at state last year, losing to DeLaSalle in a shootout in the title game. With 16 seniors on the 2023 team, last year’s experience provided solid motivation.
“It's pretty obvious,” Dinzeo said. “I was in the same position (talking to the media) last year, and I walked in here and I was trying to look a little happy but couldn't get my grimace off my face. And now this year, I have this cheesy little smile on my face that I can't get off.”
Zupfer said, “To get a taste of it last year and have it taken from you, it's one of those things that you're like, you just want to get back there and have an opportunity to do it again.”
SOCCER STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
FRIDAY AT U.S. BANK STADIUM
3A boys: Wayzata 2, Maple Grove 0
3A girls: Edina 2, Wayzata 1
2A boys: Hill-Murray 3, Orono 0
2A girls: Benilde-St. Margaret’s 1, Holy Angels 0
1A boys: St. Paul Academy 3, Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa 2
1A girls: St. Paul Academy 3, St. Charles 0
--MSHSL senior content creator John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected]