PREVIEW: Forest Lake boys soccer

Photo courtesy of TLC Digital Images

Wins come early for boys soccer

Last year, the Forest Lake boys soccer team only won one game, though it came against Mounds View, which would eventually make a run to the state tournament.

“We had lots of leads late in games, but due to our youth and inexperience we couldn’t close them out,” head coach Joe Tomas said. “We’re optimistic that that was a stepping stone for this year.”

Tomas made that statement before the Rangers had played a game in 2017, but so far his optimism seems well-founded. In their first game of the season, the Rangers beat Blaine 3-1. The Bengals had been rated No. 9 in the state preseason rankings. The Rangers followed that up with a 3-2 win against Coon Rapids, surpassing their win total from 2016 already and giving them a pair of wins against potential Section 7AA playoff opponents – a solid foundation on which to build a season.

The Rangers remain a fairly young squad, though six seniors return to lead the way. Midfielders Sully Eiden and Ethan Tomas will wear the captains’ armbands. The other seniors are forward Nick Larson, midfielders Shannon Leavitt and Stephen Jorgenson and defender Josh Sarver.

“The bulk of the players who will impact the game are underclassmen,” Tomas said.

The Rangers have two solid sophomore goalkeepers to choose from in Gunner Linn and Calder Erick.

“[Linn and Erick] came in as freshmen so they were learning on the fly, going against seniors who were probably 50-60 pounds heavier than they were,” Tomas said. “Both of them put on 30 pounds, and it’s solid weight. With that came their confidence. We’re seeing a difference there.”

Tomas also has high hopes for sophomore forwards Victor Rizzo and Jordan Oberholtzer and freshmen midfielders Carter Thiesfeld and Breen Eiden.

“Our team speed has improved,” Tomas said.

The Rangers begin their run of games within the Suburban East Conference on Sept. 7 when state-ranked East Ridge comes to town. The Rangers will host Stillwater on Sept. 19 – the Ponies went undefeated and untied en route to the state title last year.

“Stillwater lost a lot of their main guns, but they’ve got depth,” Tomas said. “East Ridge will be a tough out, and I think Roseville is going to sneak up on some people.”

The Rangers (2-1-0) took their first loss 6-1 to Anoka on Aug. 28, and played Fridley Aug. 29 after press time. They will head to Hill-Murray on Aug. 31.