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Prep soccer: Denfeld's win twice as nice

Steve Kuchera / Duluth Denfeld’s Jon Faynik (left) and Grand Rapids’ Jadon Aultman contend for the ball during Thursday’s game at Ordean Stadium. 1 / 4
Steve Kuchera / Chisago Lakes’ Allison Glenna (left) flinches as Duluth Marshall’s Gianna Kneepkens prepares to kick the ball during Thursday’s Section 7A final at Ordean Stadium. The Hilltoppers won 4-0. 2 / 4
Steve Kuchera / Duluth Marshall’s Lucy Campbell is brought down by Chisago Lakes’ Kaitlyn Wille during Thursday’s game. Marshall scored on the resulting penalty shot in a 4-0 victory. 3 / 4
Steve Kuchera / Duluth Denfeld’s Jacob Johnson (left) and Grand Rapids’ Andrew Grabarkewitz contend for the ball during the first half of Thursday’s game at Ordean Stadium. 4 / 4


When Jon Faynik was interviewed following Duluth Denfeld's victory in the 2016 Section 7A high school boys soccer final, he said he was most pleased for his brother, James, and the rest of the Hunters' seniors.

After all, the then-sophomore had two more chances to return to Minnesota's prep soccer nirvana.

But after failing to repeat a year ago, Faynik and the current crop of seniors had just one shot left to enjoy their moment in the sun.

They made it count tonight at Ordean Stadium.

Faynik scored two goals and Keegan Chastey added a backbreaking goal off a corner kick to give top-seeded Denfeld a 3-0 victory over second-seeded Grand Rapids and another berth in the Minnesota Class A state tournament next week.

The Hunters (15-3-1) will find out who and where they play next week in a quarterfinal when pairings are determined Saturday.

"It's even better getting to share it with all my friends who are my age and who I grew up with," Faynik said after upping his season goal-scoring total to 27. "We've been wanting this since back in middle school and now to get to do it as a senior is amazing."

Faynik drilled a thunderous right-footer into the top-right corner of the net 13:46 into the game to get the Hunters off on the right foot.

Faynik, however, is just as lethal with his left foot, something he has developed as a weapon the past couple seasons that gives defenders fits.

"Jon has worked on that since his sophomore year," Denfeld coach Scott Anderson said. "And he's bigger and stronger than he was last year. He knows where to place it and how to place it, and he can bang it home."

That's something Faynik practiced with his brother — the Hunters' starting goalkeeper on the 2016 team.

"Having my brother as a goalie, he forced me to do that," he said. "And lots of coaches have been telling me since I was young to do that. My (summer-league) coach Doug Hoffman worked with me on my weak foot so that there's really no difference now."

Faynik then broke the spirit of the Thunderhawks (13-5-1) with a second goal in the 64th minute. Chastey, who had clanked a shot off the crossbar in the first half, followed suit four minutes later with his 10th of the season to close the scoring.

Grand Rapids 0-0—0

Duluth Denfeld 1-2—3

First half — 1. DD, Jon Faynik, 13:46.

Second half — 2. DD, Faynik, 64th; 3. Keegan Chastey, 68th.

Saves — Hayden DeMars, GR, 9; Eric Gibson, DD, 1.


Duluth Marshall 4,

Chisago Lakes 0

Seeded fourth in Section 7A, the Hilltoppers were considered a longshot to wind their way through the 17-team section and qualify for their first state tournament.

Especially with once-beaten Cloquet-Carlton and Kendra Kelley, the state's leading goal-scorer, standing in Marshall's way.

But the Hilltoppers suffocated the Lumberjacks' offensive attack in the semifinals Tuesday and followed up with a dominating performance against the Wildcats in the championship game tonight at Ordean Stadium.

Sophomore forward Baamlak Haugen scored two goals, junior forward Victoria Thorson booted in a penalty kick and sophomore midfielder Gianna Kneepkens added another goal as Marshall (14-5-1) clinched a berth in next week's Class A state tournament. Matchups and sites will be determined this weekend for the quarterfinals.

"We work really well as a team, and it's been so much fun," Kneepkens said. "We've gotten so much better throughout the season."

Despite losing two of their first five games, Marshall coach Nic Bacigalupo says he could tell his players' progression was ahead of schedule.

"It started in the beginning of the year when we played the tough schools. We played Holy Angels and Visitation, those are top-caliber teams," Bacigalupo said. "We knew right out front that we had what it takes. We just had to keep it organized and keep it going forward and keep people healthy.

"Then we took some lumps in the middle of the season, (losing twice) to Hermantown and to Cloquet, and I think that made us tougher."

Haugen opened the scoring in the 15th minute when her shot glanced in off the fingertips of goalkeeper Dylan Grave.

Thorson doubled the lead in the 33rd minute on a PK after Lucy Campbell drew the penalty on a run down the right wing.

Kneepkens followed three minutes later with her team-leading 15th goal of the season for a 3-0 halftime lead.

By the time Haugen and Thorson worked a 1-2 pass in the Wildcats' zone for Haugen's sixth goal of the year, the game was decided.

"Tori and I have been playing together for a while and are really good on give-and-gos," Haugen explained. "We've been practicing that for a while, and it finally worked out in a game."

Duluth Marshall 3-1—4

Chisago Lakes 0-0—0

First period — 1. Baamlak Haugen (Gianna Kneepkens), 15th minute; 2. Victoria Thorson, 33rd (pk); 3. Kneepkens (Thorson), 36th.

Second period — 4. Haugen (Thorson), 47th.

Saves — Natalie Welinski, DM, 2; Kate Thickens, DM, 1; Dylan Grave, CL, 8.