Are you ready for some futbol?
Bahl Field will be back hosting Faribault soccer games in no time.
The Big 9 Conference schedule is once again a round robin with 11 games for each team.
It’s the Falcons’ lucky year to get six home games, including a much-awaited rematch against Northfield in the final game of the year. The Raiders upset Faribault in a hotly contested section playoff game in 2018.
Read on to see how teams are shaping up going into August.
Teams are listed in order of 2018 finish. All grade levels referenced are for 2019-2020 school year unless noted.
The Spartans wound up sharing the Big 9 title with Austin, but Mayo knocked off Austin 1-0 during the regular season. Mayo was a goal away from reaching the Class AA state tournament last year and finished 14-4-1. Faribault handed Mayo its only Big 9 loss, winning 3-2 in Rochester. No other team scored more than a goal on the Spartans. Eleven seniors graduated, including all six who earned all-Big 9 honors. Longtime head coach Charles Abboud returns.
The Packers defended their conference crown and returned to the Class A state tournament for both the second year in a row. The Packers will try to keep it going with a new core this year as six of seven all-Big 9 or all-Big 9 honorable mention players graduated. Senior honorable mention defender Dylan Hanegraaf returns. Austin’s U16 and U18 summer teams have played well, so more talent could be coming. Austin went 18-3 (10-1 Big 9) last year and finished third at the state tournament. Jens Levisen returns as head coach.
The Huskies had no bad losses last year en route to a 13-4-1 (9-2 Big 9) campaign. Owatonna also loses a lot of talent, including four of five all-Big 9 honorees. Senior defender Sam Hanson is the one returner. Owatonna ran into Mayo in the section semifinals. Only one opponent scored more than two goals last season, and that was three. Longtime head coach Bob Waypa returns.
The Falcons finished near the top of the table for the second year going 11-6 overall and 9-3 in conference. Their season was highlighted by the program’s first ever win at Mayo as well as drawing the No. 1 seed in the Section 2A playoffs. Nine players graduated, including three of five Big 9 honorees. Back are senior all-Big 9 midfielder Abdi Abdullahi and senior defender Abdi Ali. Goalie Gabriel Gonzalez-Sanchez is also back in net. Brendan Cox returns as head coach.
The Panthers had some tough luck last year, losing five games by one goal during a 9-8 (7-4 Big 9) season. Century could be a dark horse to contend for the title as last year it beat eventual state entrant Lakeville North in the regular season and took Austin to overtime. Nine graduated, including four of five all-Big 9 players and also at goalie. Honorable mention senior middle Nour Mohammed is back. Longtime head coach Hal Houghton returns.
The Tigers were the youngest team in the Big 9 last year, and it showed early on. The senior-less team started out 1-6 and were shut out three times. A big win at Northfield gave AL all the momentum it needed to finish the regular season winning five of seven. It was 7-9 overall and 5-6 in the Big 9 The Tigers then beat Mankato West in round one of sections. Senior midfielder Cole Indrelle and senior attack Lei Htoo were all-Big 9 last year and senior midfielder Daniel Chalmers and junior attack Dante Lopez are back in the fold. Zac Luther returns as head coach.
The Cougars are a season away from having a winning overall record each year this decade. East couldn’t quite get there in the Big 9, going 9-7-3 overall and 4-5-2 in league. It lost to Worthington in the Section 2A finals. Sixteen seniors graduated, including all three Big 9 honorees. Head coach Jerrad Aspelund returns.
It was a topsy turvy 2018 for the Raiders. After a 5-0 start, Northfield dropped six straight and eight of nine to close out the regular season. It recaptured the magic, beating Waseca in overtime and then upsetting Faribault in overtime to reach the section semifinals. Nine seniors graduate, but all-Big 9 players junior forward Grant Roney and junior midfielder Will Knutson are back. Northfield will be new in net. Westley Dayus enters his second year as head coach.
The Winhawks struggled late in a 6-9-1 (3-7-1 Big 9) but still won three times on the road in the Big 9. Byron beat Winona in round one of the Section 1A playoffs. The Winhawks could be ready to rise after returning three of four conference honorees. Junior all-Big 9 defender Anthony Appicelli is back along with honorable mentions senior midfielder Auguste Tadie and junior goalie Hans Larsen. Former St. Mary’s University coach Pete Watkins is back as Winona head coach.
Rochester John Marshall
The Rockets finished 2-12 (2-9 Big 9) but were competitive in most games. Farmington knocked out John Marshall in round one of the Section 1AA playoffs. They lost eight seniors including two Big 9 honorees. Israel Perez returns as head coach.
After winning the Big 9 in 2016, West has just two conference wins since. The Scarlets finished 2-14-2 (1-9-1) in 2018 and made the second round of the Section 1A playoffs where it lost to Albert Lea. Seven seniors graduated, but junior all-Big 9 goalie Nick Lundberg is back in net. Dan Blaisdell is head coach.
Red Wing had a winning record outside the Big 9 as it salvaged 1-10 in conference with a win over John Marshall in the regular season finale. The Wingers advanced to round two of the Section 1A playoffs. Seven seniors graduated, including two conference honorees. Head coach Nate Weiss returns for his second year.