Alexandria boys soccer eyeing larger goals with senior-heavy squad and section realignment

With 15 seniors on the roster, the time for the Alexandria boys soccer team to make a run is now. Head coach Brandon Johnson and senior goal keeper Ryan Meuwissen are eyeing big things for the Cardinals this fall but are handling expectations one day at a time knowing plenty of good competition remains in a re-made Section 8AA field.

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Brandon Johnson leads a team meeting at the end of the Alexandria boy soccer team practice on Aug. 20, 2021. Johnson is in his third year of coaching the Cardinals. (Jared Rubado / Alexandria Echo Press)

The Alexandria boys soccer program has been competitive with some good teams in the section in the two seasons under head coach Brandon Johnson. Now with 15 seniors and a section realignment, the Cardinals are hoping to make their best push in years.

Despite finishing the 2020 season 2-6-4, Alexandria beat Detroit Lakes 4-0 in the first round of the Section 8A tournament before nearly knocking off top-seeded Pelican Rapids 2-1 in overtime.

This season, the Minnesota State High School League added a third soccer class, which means Alexandria bumps up to Section 8AA. The Cardinals join East Grand Forks, Detroit Lakes, Rocori, Little Falls, Sauk Rapids-Rice, St. Cloud Apollo and St. Cloud Tech. With several of the former 8A powers in different classes, the window is opening for new teams to make a run.

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Holden Hanson (left) makes a move on Peter Sansted on Aug. 20, 2021 at the Alexandria boys soccer practice at Alexandria Area High School. (Jared Rubado / Alexandria Echo Press)


“We stayed in that middle group of 4 teams around the state,” Johnson said. “There are some good teams we lost like Sartell and Bemidji. They were bigger schools and tough teams for us to beat, but they paved the way to bring in some other teams to fill this section. There will still be good competition, but I think we have a chance at doing something special.”

The players understand the opportunity ahead of them. Ryan Meuwissen, the senior goalkeeper in his third year between the posts, understands that the combination of experience and a sizeable veteran presence raises expectations.

“It does bring some extra pressure when you have this many seniors,” Meuwissen said. “I’ve never seen a soccer team with 15 seniors. It comes with pressure because people expect seniors to be good. We just have to continue working hard and taking things one day at a time. I don’t think people on this team are saying the section is automatically ours to win. We still have to earn it, and there are good teams in the section.”

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Ryan Meuwissen makes a diving save during a team scrimmage at the Alexandria boys soccer practice on Aug. 20, 2021. Meuwissen is heading into his third year as the Cardinals' starting goal keeper. (Jared Rubado / Alexandria Echo Press)

One of those teams is St. Cloud Tech, which has been a thorn in the side of Meuwissen’s class. He’s hoping to take down the Tigers for the first time in his career during his final run.

“Tech has been a problem for us for years and years,” Meuwissen said. “The closest game I’ve been in with Tech was 2-0. The rest of them were absolutely obliterated. We can be happy about not having to go through teams like Bemidji in sections, but we still can’t claim the section as ours to win because there are good teams like Tech in front of us.”

Meuwissen has felt more confident in his game as each year goes on. In 2020, he earned All-Central Lakes Conference honors in goal. Now, as a senior, he wants to make the most of his last year on the pitch.


“My freshman year, I played behind Zach Wosepka, and he helped me out a lot and taught me a lot of things,” Meuwissen said. “I didn’t think I was the most technical my sophomore year. All I really knew was to just save the ball. I learned there’s a lot more than that to being a goalie. You have to get technical with your feet and read people’s posture. That’s definitely helped me get to where I am today.”

Alexandria is going to win games through its defense. Led by two-year captain Colin Reilly, Johnson expects his team to shut down a lot of opponents.

“Our defensive line is really solid,” Johnson said. “We have one open spot, and a couple of people are battling for it. We have some new young blood that will help us finish more, but the defense is the strong spot for us. We have to make sure that we play at our speed of play and maintain possession. We need to make sure that we play at the level we can play every game.”

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Thomas Klecker passes the ball to a teammate at the Alexandria boys soccer practice on Aug. 20, 2021 at Alexandria Area High School. (Jared Rubado / Alexandria Echo Press)

Along with Reilly, Thomas Klecker, Myles Sansted and Jack Carlson are captains.

“The captains do a phenomenal job of stepping up into their roles, and we’ve been very proud of watching them grow into that,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen several of the other upperclassmen step into those roles that aren’t captains. Our goal is to make sure that our underclassmen have that same kind of confidence going onto the pitch as the other guys.”

Meuwissen sees the large group of veterans as a strength off the field. Being a close-knit group is making his senior season one to remember.


“We all have a very close connection,” Meuwissen said. “There’s a very tight bond. We’ve known each other since middle school. We’ve all been waiting for this moment together. Our biggest strength is we are all on the same page. The friendship we have is special.”

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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