Prep boys soccer: High hopes remain for Duluth East
To say Corey Bachand stepped into a good situation as the new Duluth East boys soccer coach is stating the obvious.
Bachand, a veteran of 33 years coaching at various levels of soccer, takes over a program that won 20 games and finished third at the Minnesota Class AA state tournament last season.
As with Nick Bremer's final squad in 2017, the fourth-ranked Greyhounds are loaded with upperclassmen.
"It's a great team with a bunch of great players," Bachand, 50, said. "We were in a unique situation where we had a bunch of seniors. We had 17 or 18 seniors returning so what I did this year is I made a top 40. Instead of cutting away good players ... they are fighting for positions every week.
"We'll get established and lock in our top 22 before (the state tournament), but I'm looking forward to these kids making us more competitive and making us stronger."
Bachand, a 1986 Superior High School graduate, owns a brokerage and property management company, the Bachand Group, with his brother, Adam, a former St. Scholastica player who is helping out with the East boys. Owning his own business allows Bachand to work around East's soccer schedule.
Corey Bachand spent a half-dozen years as head coach of the Wisconsin-Superior women's soccer team and last year served as assistant coach for the East girls. He jumped at the opportunity to cross over when Bremer, who was 37-16-4 in three seasons, stepped down.
The players haven't missed a beat thus far in practice.
"It's been phenomenal so far," senior midfielder Seth Hoffman said of the new coaching staff. "We have guys in new positions that are working great, and we're on track."
Hoffman (17 goals, 7 assists, 24 points) and senior forward William Francis (14-8—22) were 1-2 in scoring goals for the Greyhounds in a season that concluded by beating Maple Grove in the third-place game after losing 5-1 to Stillwater Area in the semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Hoffman and Francis join defender Isiah Hendrickson and goalkeeper Oliver Hasler as team captains this fall.
"It was amazing," Francis said of winning twice at state. "It's exactly what you want, to compete as high as you can. It's fun to know you're the third-best team in the state.
"We have a lot of talent, a lot of speed this year. I think we could do the same thing as last year, maybe better."
Those lofty goals provide the motivation for East despite a hefty loss in midfield with the graduation of Nolan Friday, the News Tribune's 2017 All-Area Player of the Year, along with several defenders and goalkeeper Matthew Campbell.
With Francis, Hoffman and senior forward Sean Brueninghaus (9-4—13), putting the ball in the back of the net won't be an issue.
"We have the goal-scoring power and the talent to get the ball where it needs to go. We should be fine this year," Hoffman said. "We lost a lot of our defenders, but we have some new guys stepping up with speed, skill and talent, and I think they should fill the role quite well."
Around the Northland
A trio of senior captains — defender Matt Magnuson, midfielder Keelan Golat (9-5—14) and forward Popo Perrault — lead Duluth Marshall.
The Hilltoppers challenged for a Class A state berth last season, falling 3-1 to Chisago Lakes in the Section 7A final.
Midfielders Henry Campbell and Gaines Mejdrich and defender K.C. Snyder are the other returning seniors, while midfielder Griffin Pichetti (6-4—10), forward Peyton Marshak (8-6—14) and goalie Charlie Eginton (1.68 goals-against average) highlight the junior class.
• Cloquet-Esko-Carlton had the best record (15-2-1) in Section 7A but lost in a shootout to Marshall in the playoff semifinals. Seniors Kade Bender (17-8—25) and Andy Acers (14-4—18) return to provide the offense, while senior defender Pete Tomhave and goalie Dru Senich (0.9 team goals-against average) also are back for a team that may use five sophomores at the core of its lineup.
• Duluth Denfeld has had back-to-back exceptional seasons, partly due to high-scoring senior Jon Faynik (16-4—20), the 2016 News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year. The midfield is experienced with sophomore Keegan Chastey and seniors Peter Foldesi and Cade Rathke as is a defense anchored by seniors Connor Feyen, Julian Beckrick and Sebastian Haugen. Senior goalie Eric Gibson will be relied on to keep the ball out of the net.
• Superior surprised everyone by going 13-2-3 and finishing second in the Lake Superior Conference. The Spartans, who lost high-scoring Blake Hanson (25-13—38) and Jarrett Kallinen (16-4—20), are led by senior goalie Cal Berti, senior midfielders Brandon Conklin (6-20—26) and Maverick Peterson (5-12—17) and junior defenders Noah Benson and Alex Hanson.
• Hermantown is in the midst of a major rebuilding effort. Senior goalie A.J. Harris (1.26 goals-against average) was named to the All-LSC team and senior forward Cole Stokke had five goals and five assists, but most of the Hawks are earning varsity minutes for the first time.
• Grand Rapids is loaded with experience, with eight seniors returning. Included in that group are Seamus Stanley, David Chandler and Grant Henrichsen, who combined for more than half the team's goals last year. Freshman goalie Hayden DeMars started every game as an eighth-grader and faced plenty of shots.
• Hibbing-Chisholm has 10 seniors listed on its roster as it looks to improve upon back-to-back eight-win seasons.