The St. Paul Academy Spartans defeated the Providence Academy Lions 4-3 in the first semifinal match of the Class A girls state soccer tournament Tuesday night at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The offense exploded early for the Lions, scoring twice early in the first half. A sixth-minute goal from Avery Lampe was quickly followed by an eighth-minute goal by Tatum Janezich, and the Lions were looking dominant early.
SPA answered with a goal of its own a few minutes before halftime. Sophomore Lucia Gonzalez scored in the 36th minute, pulling the momentum back to her team’s side a bit, and the Spartans went into the half down 2-1.
The second half was even more of an offensive shootout, with the teams trading blows. The Spartans capitalized on the momentum they regained late in the first half by adding to it with a goal from Sawyer Danielson, tying the game in the 42nd minute. Danielson scored again 15 minutes later, giving the Spartans the lead with their third unanswered goal.
The Lions weren’t quite done. A strike from sophomore Maddyn Greenway knotted the game back up at three apiece with 20 minutes left to play.
The killing blow was dealt in the 78th minute by St. Paul’s Sawyer Danielson, scoring her third goal of the half and completing her hat trick. The Spartans held on the final two minutes to win 4-3.
Danielson and teammates Aurelia Meza and Annika Lillegard said they were still a bit in shock after the game, but that it felt amazing to make the comeback they did, and were excited to play for the state title.
“I still haven’t fully processed that we’re playing another game and it’s the state final,” Danielson said. “We’re back where we were last year. It’s still setting in, but it’s pretty exciting.”
St. Paul head coach Aileen Guiney said even after going down 2-0 almost immediately, there was never any panic.
“This team, all season long, has had an incredible amount of self confidence,” she said. “It was just a matter of getting us focused. We have great senior leadership, and we have been playing better and better as the season has gone on, and so we are peaking at just the right time. As a coach, it was just a matter of fixing a couple things on the field, and making sure we all believed in each other.”
Providence senior Inga Nelson was emotional post game, and said even though the team won’t be playing for the championship like they hoped, the third place game the team will play in still means a lot on a personal level.
“Making it to the semifinals guarantees two more games,” Nelson said. “For us to lose, there’s still a chance at third. Being a senior, there’s still one more game with your best friends. So it’s just… enjoying it while it lasts.”
St. Paul Academy advances to the state championship, which will be played on Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium.