State boys soccer: St. Paul Academy gets step closer to repeat with Class A quarterfinal win over Washington

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St. Paul Academy can still go back to back.

Rusheek Kolan and Rowan McLean scored in the first half and the defending Class A boys soccer champion beat Washington 2-1 in a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday.

With the win at a wet Irondale High School, the third-seeded Spartans will face No. 2 seed Holy Family in a Nov. 1 semifinal. That match is scheduled for 7 p.m. at climate-controlled U.S. Bank Stadium.

“Our coach Max (Lipset) tells us that we kind of always have a chip on our shoulder, like people want a piece of us because we are the defending champions. But at the end of the day, I don’t think we feel that pressure and take every game as it goes,” said goalkeeper Cooper Olson, recently named Mr. Soccer in Class A.

Now 12-4-3, St. Paul Academy has won seven of eight.

A light rain falling, Awal Wako scored on a penalty kick for Washington 36 seconds into the second half to get within 2-1. The unseeded Eagles thought they had a penalty-kick opportunity in the first half, but an initial handball call in the box was overruled.

Their deficit cut to one, Olson immediately took charge.

“We kind of brought everyone together and I just said, ‘Make sure we stay together as a team. If we get one back, we get one back, let’s just play solid defensively, get this game over and get to The Bank,’ ” he said.

In the tournament for the second time in three years, Washington (8-9-3) came in with some recent firepower. The Eagles won six of their last seven, scoring 23 goals, including six once and five twice.

“The conditions made it a little tough. Being in the state tournament in the rain, it’s harder to make the connections. They defended well, they’re compact, kept their shape,” said coach Micah Merritt. “Close chances, but just not enough to get that breakthrough. … Still, I’m really proud of the effort.”

St. Paul Academy controlled much of the early action. McLean was stopped in close less than three minutes in, and Ezra Straub rang a shot off the crossbar about five minutes later.

“We were doing pretty well, then we kind of slowed down. But once we got our rhythm back it was easy to keep getting shots off,” McLean said. “We trust each other. If someone makes a mistake, you pass to them on the next play.”

Kolan put the Spartans on the board in the 23rd minute. A long shot from Orio Kim was not cleanly played by the Eagles goalkeeper, and Kolan was able to poke the ball in at the left post.

From near the top of the box, McLean scored in the 35th minute for a 2-0 lead.

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