Last season, Duluth Denfeld entered the 2020 Section 7A tournament having won just one of its final five games.
The low point came in an 11-0 blowout loss to Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Sept. 29, but the Hunters rebounded in the section tournament, allowing just one goal through four games and winning their second Section 7A crown in three years.
To repeat as section champions, the Hunters will have to replace three-time All-State selection and back-to-back News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year Keegan Chastey.
Chastey led Denfeld with 20 goals and 11 assists last season. This year the team will look to a platoon of players to fill the void left by Chastey’s graduation, according to coach Scott Anderson.
“The rest of the team knows they’ve got to step it a notch here,” Anderson said. “Instead of trying to funnel it through one guy, let’s work the whole team here.”
Seniors Joe Eklund and Simon Davidson will likely be the primary scorers, Anderson said, with senior Skylar Fossum and junior Parker Chastey — Keegan’s younger brother — aiming to control the ball and anchor the defensive midfield.
The Hunters have two senior goalkeepers to turn to in Conrad Lazzaro and Austin Wick. Anderson said Lazzaro will be the starter to begin the season after his performance in the Section 7A tournament last season.
2020 starter Demetri Regas was injured during a 3-2 loss Oct. 8 at Grand Rapids, with Lazzaro stepping in for the final five games of the season. Lazzaro posted three shutouts in four section tournament games, including a 1-0 win over then-undefeated CEC.
With the Minnesota State High School League adding a class to girls and boys soccer, with the Hunters, along with Lumberjacks, Hermantown and Grand Rapids, moving up to Section 7AA in 2021.
Anderson thinks it will be a good year, but knows there will be some stiff competition when the section tournament rolls around.
“We’ve been strong the last several years, so we want to keep that momentum going,” Anderson said. “We know there’s tough teams out there and I know Cloquet is going to be very hungry when they face us, but I think it’s going to be a good year.”
Denfeld dropped its first two games to Mahtomedi and Hill-Murray but recovered for a 4-3 win over Duluth Marshall on Thursday. They travel to Princeton for a game at 1 p.m. Saturday.