As we’ve gotten through the holiday tournaments and the new year has rolled over, the winter sports seasons are taking shape. Here are some of the teams to watch in 2013.
Let’s start with the team that will probably do the most damage in the playoffs. #1 Saint Thomas Academy (11-1-1) is off to their best start in five years. And this is despite playing possibly the toughest schedule in the state. That included five games that were against opponents who were ranked in the top three of Class AA at the time of the game. In the next 20 days, the Cadets will play Shattuck, Hill-Murray (#1 AA), Breck (#3 A), and Totino-Grace (#2 A), so needless to say, they will be well prepared for the playoffs. Saint Thomas Academy can get goals from any line. Their defense is solid and David Zevnik is stout back in the net, as the Cadets have the lowest goals against average in the state (1.1). Saint Thomas will be making the jump to Class AA next year, but before they do that, they look to add a third straight Class A title and a fifth in the last eight years.
After being upset in the first round of the playoffs last year, St. Paul United (9-8-0) has come back this season with a chip on their shoulder. Yes the Spartans have eight losses, but four of those have come to teams currently ranked in the top 7 of class A. They’ve already beaten Section 4A foes Henry Sibley, Simley, Mahtomedi, Totino-Grace, and Minnehaha by a combined score of 22-2. They play #8 South St. Paul on January 15, and a win over the Packers should clinch the #1 seed for the section tournament. Alev Baysoy (16 goals/9 assists) leads the way for a United team that should be playing in the section final next month.
However, Section 4A is #8 South St. Paul’s (8-6-3) to lose until proven otherwise. The Packers started off slow, rolling into the new year below .500 for the first time in a long time, but they have caught fire since losing to Hibbing/Chisolm in the first round of the Kaposia Classic. Since then they’ve rattled off four straight, including wins over Blake (#3 A), Roseville (#10 AA), and Hill-Murray (#6 AA). They get scoring from a lot of different girls, and the defense/goaltending is coming around with the Packers allowing a shade over one goal a game over the last nine contests.
After a few lean years, Henry Sibley (8-4) basketball is back making some noise. Led by senior Adam Huessner (16 ppg), the Warriors are off to a solid start as the conference season gets rolling. With wins over Saint Thomas and Simley, Henry Sibley almost knocked off #7 Tartan (9-1) earlier this week. The Warriors have a good balance of perimeter and post players and can get contribution from a lot of different starters and bench players. They should finish in the top three of the Classic Suburban Conference, but it will be tough to get out of Section 3AAAA with Tyus Jones and Apple Valley in their way.
Of the local teams, Simley (9-4) is the best bet to make it to state. The Spartans have size in the frontcourt, speed in the backcourt, depth, and despite their youth, lots of experience. They fell out of the top ten AAA rankings in mid December after back to back losses, but the Spartans have already beat #5 Richfield and #9 Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Their four losses have come by a total of 14 points to teams with a combined winning percentage of .667%. Twin towers Abby Kain and Kyle Brown are averaging double-doubles inside, while Aejah Lockett provides the Spartans with a threat from downtown. Simley will contend for a conference title, but need to make a postseason statement after disappointing playoff exits the last two years.