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Henderson is the key to the Greyhounds' kennel

Prior to Duluth East's Sept. 20 matchup at Coon Rapids, Greyhounds senior striker Darby Henderson was challenged by one of the program's most prolific scorers, Mike Sorensen, who also happens to be the older brother of his best friend.

East
Darby Henderson (11) of Duluth East passes the ball during a recent game against Hermantown at Corey Veech Memorial Field in Hermantown. East enters the Section 7AA playoffs on a 12-game unbeaten streak. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com

Prior to Duluth East’s Sept. 20 matchup at Coon Rapids, Greyhounds senior striker Darby Henderson was challenged by one of the program’s most prolific scorers, Mike Sorensen, who also happens to be the older brother of his best friend.
At the time, Henderson had only four goals in 10 games and the Greyhounds had just played a scoreless tie at home against Duluth Denfeld. Since that chat, Henderson has buried 12 goals in the back of opposing nets and East has won six consecutive games heading into today’s Minnesota Section 7AA boys soccer playoffs.
“My goal streak kind of all started when we had a talk in Coon Rapids,” Henderson said. “(Sorensen) goes, ‘You need to score two every game to tie my record.’ He had 17 and that inspired me to go for it. Ever since then I’ve been on a hot streak. I’m chasing 17 and hopefully 18.”
Unbeaten in their last 12 contests (9-0-3), the No. 4-seeded Greyhounds (9-3-4) host No. 5 Forest Lake (7-9-0) at 7 p.m. today with either No. 8 Coon Rapids (2-14-0) or No. 1 Andover (10-2-2) on deck Saturday at the home of the higher-seeded team.
Henderson already has 16 goals for the year, in addition to five assists. He’s taken the advice of the elder Sorensen literally, averaging two goals per game in the final six matches of the regular season. Henderson was held to just one goal against Hermantown on Oct. 1, but that was OK because he notched a hat trick Sept. 22 against St. Francis.
“He’s the hardest worker to the ball,” said Matt Sorensen, the younger brother of Mike and Henderson’s best friend. “He’s the fastest kid out there every game. He can really finish a ball and he knows where I’ll pass the ball and I know where he will be.”
Henderson had equal praise for Matt Sorensen, who has 14 assists and seven goals on the season. According to Henderson, the younger Sorensen is such a potent set-up man because he can serve a scoring chance on the ground with his feet or through the air with a throw that catches the opposition off guard.
“We have a lot of great attackers up top,” said Matt Sorensen, who is one of six Greyhounds with six or more goals this year. “I just send through balls to Darby and throw long throws into the box and a couple of our big guys head them in.
“We catch a lot of teams off guard. They don’t know how far I can throw it. I can usually hit the back post.”
East began the year winless in its first four games (0-3-1), including losses to top-seeded Andover (10-2-2) and No. 3-seeded Blaine (8-5-2). By the sixth game - a 2-2 tie with No. 2-seeded Centennial (10-4-2) - East coach Nic Bacigalupo said things came together and one of those elements was getting Henderson more scoring chances.
“We struggled early trying to figure out who was going to play what roles,” Bacigalupo said. “Now we’re able to serve Darby up a little bit more and get him the ball. We weren’t able to do that the first couple games of the year and that makes a big difference.”
Hermantown, Denfeld could
collide again in Section 7A
Hermantown (11-2-3) is the top-seeded Northland team in 7A. The No. 3 Hawks host North Lakes Academy (0-12-0) at 5 p.m. today and a Hermantown win could set up an interesting second-round matchup against No. 6 Duluth Denfeld (7-7-2) if the Hunters survive tonight’s contest against Proctor (3-12-1) at Public Schools Stadium. It would be the third regular-season meeting between the teams, with Hermantown winning the previous contests by a combined score of 11-2.
No. 5 Cloquet-Esko-Carlton (9-5-1), which opens up against No. 12 North Branch (2-6-2), highlights the other side of the bracket. A Lumberjacks win would set up a likely encounter against No. 4 Big Lake (8-7-2).
Girls
Cloquet-Carlton riding
5-game win streak
Cloquet-Carlton (8-8-0) may only be a No. 5 seed, but the Lumberjacks might be the hottest team entering the 7A tournament having won five straight. They open against No. 12 Two Harbors (6-10-0) and would face either No. 4 Zimmerman (10-3-2) or No. 13 Grand Rapids (1-11-1) in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
No. 6 Duluth Denfeld (7-8-1) heads into the postseason having won three of its last four matches, setting up a 5:30 p.m. match today against No. 11 Esko (3-12-1) at Public Schools Stadium.
Hermantown (13-2-1) enters the postseason with a bye as the No. 2 seed having beaten nine of the 14 teams in the section, though the Hawks did not play No. 1 Princeton (15-1-0). Hermantown will host either No. 7 Duluth Marshall (7-7-1) or No. 10 Hibbing (7-6-3) at noon Saturday. Hibbing won five of its last seven games to close the regular season.
r In 7AA, No. 5 Duluth East (7-8-1) hits the road to play No. 4 Andover, which beat the Greyhounds 2-0 in the season-opening Duluth Invitational. East started the season 0-7-1 before winning seven straight. If the Greyhounds win, they’d travel to No. 1 Blaine (11-3-2) or host No. 8 Cambridge-Isanti (4-11-0).

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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