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Agates boys' soccer team breaks three-year losing streak

The team leads a cheer in front of the bleachers after winning their first game in three years. Kara Pavlisich1 / 3
Sophomore Agate Casey Gaylan works to get the ball towards the Princeton goal. LaReesa Sandretsky2 / 3
Senior captain Steve Frikken clears the ball for the Agates. LaReesa Sandretsky3 / 3

The members of the Two Harbors soccer team watched eagerly as the clock ran down to zero and immediately started celebrating at the end of Saturday's game against Princeton.

They had a good reason for the jumps, yells and hugs: it was the first game the team has won in three years and the only shut out in the last four years. They came out on top with a score of 1-0.

"We've been working really hard this year," head coach David Lukkonen said.

According to Lukkonen, senior captain Steve Frikken has been anchoring the team. He has skills, speed and experience--five years of experience as a starter, in fact--that make him an invaluable part of the defensive line, which Lukkonen called the team's strong suit on the field.

"The defense has really improved," Lukkonen said.

Soccer is a sport where experience is vital, Lukkonen explained, and much of his team just doesn't have it. Summer soccer leagues used to be popular, but there hasn't been a team for the older boys in Two Harbors for years, meaning most of his players get little practice during the summer.

"We've just been focusing on getting as many touches on the ball as possible during practice," Lukkonen said, which the coaches hope will make up for the relative lack of experience.

Ben Tietge and Nick Holappa assist Lukkonen in coaching. All three are Two Harbors High School graduates and former soccer players.

Senior Charlie Pavlisich had to step in as goalie after starter Grant Anderson injured his hip, and Lukkonen said he's been doing great considering his lack of preparation--he normally plays midfield. John Burns, senior midfielder, is also out for the season due to an injury.

Lukkonen also mentioned defenders Corey Johnson, junior, Brad Smith, junior and eighth grader Ian Johnson as the glue that holds the team together with Frikken in the defensive line. Senior Eli Hebl, who scored the single goal in the Agate win, is also a strong player in the midfield.

Seniors Laine Johnson, Dan O'Neal and German exchange student Clemens Zippel round out the the oldest players on the team that ranges from seventh to twelfth grade.

The team's playoffs start in just two weeks, and Lukkonen said Friday's win was a bright spot that he hopes will set the tone for the playoffs and next year.

"If the guys get some good practice in during the summer, next year looks good," he said.