The Alexandria boys soccer team had a jump in its step during a morning practice on Aug. 18.

A lot of laughter and yelling during fast-paced drills filled the air under blue skies for a group that appreciates the chance to compete in any way after coming off a 9-9-1 season in 2019.

“Energy has been high,” head coach Brandon Johnson said. “I think everyone is just excited to be here. It’s different. We don’t get the camaraderie piece. There’s minimal high fives, no celebratory hugs, so it’s a different approach. But I think we’re all just really blessed to be able to be here and play. We realize not everybody has that option right now.”

Boys and girls soccer in Minnesota will have a season of games that runs from Aug. 27 through Oct. 10. There is potential for some kind of a postseason, with the final end date of soccer coming on Oct. 24. Teams can play a maximum of 11 contests with just two games per week.

Johnson was eager to start practice with his guys on Aug. 17 and see what new faces might show up. Football has been moved to a spring season starting in mid-March due to COVID-19, and there have been a few athletes giving soccer a try.

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“I think there’s four new guys on the roster in the upperclassmen bracket,” Johnson said. “One moved here and the other three were football. It’s just kind of fun to see them. Why not try something different? We try to be as flexible and open in that process too. It’s just fun to see the fields being used again and get a little normalcy before we get into starting school again.”

The Cardinals have a six-member senior class consisting of Lucas Harstad, Nicholas Huss, Jackson Jahnke, Jacob Partington, Jaegar Steele and Tyler Zimmerman. The junior class is much bigger with 16 kids out for soccer.

Holden Hanson (right) comes up to defend Sam Faber during a drill at the Alexandria boys soccer practice on Aug. 18. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Holden Hanson (right) comes up to defend Sam Faber during a drill at the Alexandria boys soccer practice on Aug. 18. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“We lost a lot of seniors last year, and I have been very impressed,” Johnson said of this team. “The group of guys we have has been exceptionally dedicated. They play soccer year around and it shows. We can definitely tell the players who came out and were working on their game in the offseason. We can definitely tell the players who weren’t working on their stuff during the offseason. The first couple days into it, I’ve been really impressed by what we do have.”

Ryan Meuwissen is part of that junior class as Alexandria’s returning starter in goal. He’s backed by a defensive unit that Johnson is excited to see progress.

“Our back line has remained pretty steady,” he said. “We have a couple people from our junior varsity squad that really upped their game. As far as holding down that back four position, I feel really good going into the start of the year. It gives us the freedom to move some of our more experienced players into other areas so we don’t have to focus on just defense. We can actually focus on the counter attacks and actually finding some goals too.”

Alexandria will play a modified schedule against Bemidji and Moorhead and then teams from the Central Lakes Conference. That offers plenty of good competition for the Cardinals.

“There’s a couple of teams we were really looking forward to playing that we don’t get to,” Johnson said. “Pelican Rapids was one of those. To watch that level of play continue to rise around us is great, but it’s going to be challenging because we play a lot of the St. Cloud teams that are historically very good programs. Moorhead doesn’t shy away as a large program, and Bemidji always has a great program.”

2020 ALEXANDRIA BOYS SOCCER -- SENIORS - Lucas Harstad, Nicholas Huss, Jackson Jahnke, Jacob Partington, Jaegar Steele, Tyler Zimmerman

JUNIORS - Benjamin Borden, Tyler Bright, Dayton Downing, Alex Greseth, Holden Hansen, William Heydt, Bjorn Karlstad, Thomas Klecker, Ryan Meuwissen, Samuel Peterson, Taeren Peterson, Colin Reilly, Peter Sansted, Myles Sansted, Andrew Swedberg, Elijah Vanderveer

SOPHOMORES - Hunter Bollman, Nicholas Borden, Jack Breitzman, Jack Carlson, Samuel Faber, Dylan Hendricks, Tyler Kludt, Dylan Kraker, Joseph Lamski, Nicholas Levasseur, Bryce Paffrath, Henry Ramstorf, Erik Reineke, Tripp Shatek

FRESHMEN - Cyler Coauette, Grayson Grove, Cole Haabala, Jackson Holtz, Henry Klecker, Jestin Masteller, Joaquim Ramos, Isak Rhen, Dawson Roderick, Luke Tiegen

ALEXANDRIA BOYS SOCCER SCHEDULE

(Schedules are subject to change)

Aug. 27 vs. Sartell, 7 p.m.

Sept. 1 at Rocori, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 3 vs. Sauk Rapids-Rice, 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 vs. St. Cloud Tech, 7 p.m.

Sept. 10 at St. Cloud Apollo, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 at Willmar, 7 p.m.

Sept. 17 vs. Bemidji, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 at Moorhead, 5 p.m.

Sept. 29 vs. Brainerd, 7 p.m.

Oct. 1 at Fergus Falls, 7 p.m.

Oct. 8 TBD