Adapted soccer wins State consolation title


Photo submitted by Stuart Groskreutz

Defensive Player Rylynn Zanon (#25) defends the goal in their game against Lakeville/Burnsville/Farmington. The Ponies won the state consolation title after a season focused on hard work and improvement.

Brooke Elfert, Business Editor and Copy Editor

“This year, we didn’t have a win goal. We stayed focused on working hard, staying healthy, and getting better in every game and practice,” Coach John Towle said.

This fall, the adapted soccer team had a new mindset going into this season, with a goal of team unity and improvement.

During the fall of 2020, athletes were able to participate in adapted soccer, but there were no games against other teams due to the potential risks of Covid-19.  Scrimmages and many skill building drills were incorporated into their Monday-Thursday practices, as well as other fun activities to keep the excitement high.

“I was teaching some guys how to play better, and what they need to do in order to learn their position and work on kicking hard,” junior Goalie Thomas Putnam explained how they used this off year to their advantage.

As a result of their hard work, Stillwater beat White Bear Lake 14-10 on Nov. 9 in the Section Finals, sealing their trip to the state tournament for the first time since 2013. This was only their fifth state appearance ever, after qualifying in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2013; and none of the players had played at State before. Stillwater lost their first game of the tournament to a combined team Lakeville/Burnsville/Farmington (17-2) but the next day, they went on to defeat the team from St. Cloud (8-2). On Oct. 27, the Ponies played their final game and beat South Suburban 14-6 to clinch the consolation state title.

Towle said that they played tentatively to begin with, before overcoming nerves for the rest of the tournament, and the players were very excited to have their peers at the game watching.

Namely, the coach of the soccer team, Towle has been coaching indoor soccer for six years, but has been coaching sports for 34 years. He plans to keep coaching for 11 more years, and says that he loves coaching and mentoring teenagers.

As a coach, he “loves the kids,” and “they teach him every day how to treat others.”

The mission of the Minnesota Association for Adapted Athletics is to provide youth with disabilities the same opportunity as other students to enjoy the benefits of a high quality high school sports program. Not only do sports make for an enjoyable activity, but they can teach many life lessons that go beyond anything to be learned from a textbook.

“My biggest takeaway is that we’re all different. And when we come together, it makes us one big team, and we’re like a family that way,” said Junior defensive player Rylynn Zanon.

Although the team philosophy is about improving strength and teamwork, the athletes hope to win next year after having such a successful 2021 season. Putnam has goals to be even better next year, but also wishes the team to grow.

“I want the 9th and 10th graders to keep moving around. I want them to play for extra years and the team to keep getting better,” Putnam said.

While, the soccer season is over, many of these athletes are participants in floor hockey, softball, or bowling, which are the other MSHSL sponsored adaptive sports. The 2022 soccer season is expected to begin on Aug. 15, 2022.