Three Rivers Soccer Association’s top U16 boys team, nicknamed the Nitro, was runner-up in the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association tournament July 21-25, reaching the finals where they lost to Blaine 3-1, at Coon Rapids Soccer Complex.
The Nitro had 10 Elk River players, including current Elk River-Zimmerman varsity members Joey Benz, Cody Christ (goaltender), Grant Tesdahl, Storm Heyer, Odrey Bechtel and Ryan Stefano. The roster had three Rogers players, two from St. Michael-Albertville and one from Champlin Park.
The Nitro was 5-1 in league play, outscoring opponents 15-4.
At the state tournament, they beat Prior Lake 2-0 and St. Paul Blackhawk 1-0 to reach the finals. In that game, Benz suffered a broken jaw when struck by an opponent’s foot, but continued to p lay.
The Nitro’s other season highlight was placing third in the Kansas City Invitational Tournament.
For reaching the state finals and winning the league, the Nitro will move up to Premier League, highest in the MYSA, next year.
“This is a very tight team with everyone contributing at a high level,” said Bill Stefano, who coached along with Toby Kilby and Brad Adkins.
Stefano has coached the group since they were nine.
“The first few years we were over-matched, losing almost all our games,” he said. “Through their continuous hard work and dedication, we have developed into one of the top teams in the state.”