Park bows out with fourth-place trophy

By John McLoone
Posted 11/8/23

After a heartbreaking loss in Wednesday’s semifinals, Park simply just didn’t have much left in the tank in Thursday’s third-place game.

Woodbury took advantage of Park early …

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Park bows out with fourth-place trophy


After a heartbreaking loss in Wednesday’s semifinals, Park simply just didn’t have much left in the tank in Thursday’s third-place game.

Woodbury took advantage of Park early en route to a 5-1 win in the battle for third place in the 2023 Class AAA boys soccer tournament at West St. Paul Regional Athletics Center Thursday morning.

It was a disappointing end to a breakout season for the Wolfpack – the team’s first trip to the state soccer tournament in 29 years (in 1994) and best finish since taking second in 1992.

“The game was how I thought it probably would go,” said Park head coach Andrew Bourgoine. “Giving up a goal in yesterday’s game in the semifinal with two minutes left it just takes the winds out of your sail and that’s why they scored so early. That’s why they (Maple Grove) scored so early in overtime, too. That kind of carried over into today. We kind of came out flat a little bit.

“We did play good for stretches,” Bourgoine continued. “It’s just anytime they got press on us they scored. I got all 22 players in.  I played a lot of the 13 seniors we have. That was the goal today, for the kids to have fun, enjoy their last high school game.  It didn’t matter about the score. I was glad we got a goal at the end.”    

The Woodbury Royals raced to a quick 2-0 lead in the first 24 minutes of the opening half Thursday, which seemed to deflate the Wolfpack. The rest of the game the Wolfpack weren’t the same team which had knocked off Hastings, Bloomington Jefferson, Rosemount and No. 4 Minnetonka in straight games to get to this point.

“They (the Royals) moved the ball quicker than us and they were just on their feet more than us,” said senior forward Killian Krech. “They clearly wanted it more than us today. Even though I knew most of the seniors wanted it. It was difficult. Some mistakes just led to more and more downfall from our team.

“This game, I feel like the players were still kind of dealing with the loss from yesterday, that really heartbreaking loss,” Krech added.

Park finished the season 12-9, a season which will be remembered for numerous close-game triumphs and also the agonizing close semifinal loss to Maple Grove.  The Wolfpack fell 2-1 to the second-seeded Maple Grove Crimson (19-0-1) Wednesday morning in the 2023 Class AAA boys soccer semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium.

That game was after the rousing state quarterfinal win over Minnetonka. Those two games proved, as coach Bourgoine noted, “We can play with anybody.”

In the other Class 3A semifinal Wednesday morning, top-seeded Wayzata edged fourth-seeded Woodbury (15-3-3), winning 3-2 in overtime. That set up the third-place battle between the two old conference rivals for third place. Both Woodbury and Park were agonizingly close to meeting for the state championship.

Top-seeded Wayzata (20-0-2) defeated Maple Grove (19-1-1) by a 2-0 score Friday morning to earn the Class AAA championship.

It was a remarkable finish for an unranked Park team which stood just 7-7 on Oct. 4, but proceeded to catch fire in the playoffs with four straight wins. Park outscored its first four section opponents by a 9-4 count, including back-to-back shutouts of Rosemount and Minnetonka.

“We were pretty much a .500 team all year,” said Bourgoine. “We had some really bad games, some really good games but when it mattered most, when the sections came around, when state tournament came around, we played with everybody and it showed yesterday even though we lost to Maple Grove. We showed we can play with anybody in the state at any given day.”

In Thursday’s third-place game, Woodbury went up 4-0 in the second half before senior forward Killian Krech finally got the Wolfpack on the scoreboard. The Royals added insult to injury with a last-minute penalty kick that got past Park goalie Carter Geisen. Geisen played the second half for the Wolfpack in the net, while Joe Cison started the first half. Both are seniors.

The season was a remarkable one for a Wolfpack team that never won more than four games the previous three seasons – Park went 4-10-2 in 2022, 4-5-7 in 2021and 4-10-0 in 2020 -- and made hasty exits in the section quarterfinals.

“Coming into the season we didn’t really have any expectations,” said senior midfielder Noah Haupt. “Honestly the goal was just to win one or two games in sections, not lose the first round like the last two years. And ultimately, we got to the state semifinals. Heartbreaking loss. We were two minutes away from making the finals. Today we weren’t mentally focused like 100 percent. But ultimately it was a great season. Great group of guys. I wouldn’t change a single thing.”

Park loses 13 seniors – and a ton of heart and talent -- from this year’s squad, including both goalies and leading scorers Ayub Mohamed, Haupt and Krech. Other seniors departing are Cole West, Brayden Kortus, Riley Lindgren, Adam Friemann, Joey Runion, Koby Doty, Anthony Zamora and Cole Jacobson.

“It was a tough loss today but it’s alright,” said junior midfielder Tristan Lee. “We had a successful season. Not the outcome we wanted but it’s fine.”

Counting Lee, Park could have nine players returning next season off this year’s team.

“This experience is going to make those nine players amazing and hopefully translate that to the younger kids that we’re going to bring up next year,” said Bourgoine.

Maple Grove 2, Park 1

Wednesday’s semifinal loss to third-ranked Maple Grove was about as painful as it could possibly have been for the Park Wolfpack. Park was tied or lead most of the game all to see if slip away in the very late stages, first in the second half and then in overtime.

In Wednesday’s game, Maple Grove junior Gavin Chabica tied the game with just 2:21 left in regulation, then scored the game winner in the first overtime to turn back Park 2-1 in a Class 3A semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The game was tied 0-0 at halftime. Park senior Ayub Mohamed gave the Wolfpack a 1-0 lead with 10:16 remaining off an assist from Noah Haupt.

But the second-seeded Crimson broke Park hearts with their late score and then won it at the 4:40 mark of overtime.

Maple Grove improved to 19-0-1 on the season and advanced to the state championship game for the first time in 25 years. The Crimson continued their tough defensive play against the Wolfpack, having allowed just six goals on the season.

Park (12-8-0) was seeking its first appearance in the state title game since 1992 when the Wolfpack finished as the state runner-up in 1992.