By Joe Tischler
Special to The Free Press
---- — MANKATO — The 2012 Mankato East boys’ soccer season ended with an appearance in the Class A State Tournament. The season began with an easy 7-1 win at New Prague.
The Cougars’ 2013 campaign kicked off Thursday afternoon at Thomas O. Anderson Fields against the same opponent, this time with an even better result, a 10-0 nonconference shutout.
“It’s a good start for our boys; I’m happy,” said East coach Jerrad Aspelund. “We had a lot of guys contribute today, and we were able to work on finding out some spots for guys that’ll fill in. It’s good to see.”
Seven different Cougars found the net, including junior Ricky Cano-Hernandez who tallied a first-half hat trick.
“That was our goal from the onset,” said Aspelund. “We don’t want to be playing from behind. We want to start early, start often, and give it to them as much as we can.”
Junior Paul Blume got East on the board in the eighth minute as he lofted a shot from just outside the box over goalkeeper Zach Jones. Less than a minute later, sophomore Ben Schwartz, last year’s top goal scorer, chipped a left-footed shot to the top right corner of the net for the first of his two goals.
Cano-Hernandez scored the first of his three straight goals in the game’s 15th minute from inside the box. Two minutes later, he scored off a nice feed from Schwartz and four minutes after that, got by three defenders in the box to get one past Jones for a 5-0 East lead.
“I told (Cano-Hernandez) in preseason ‘this is your year, this is your time to shine,’” said Aspelund. “I’ve had him since he was in ninth grade on varsity, so this is his time to be a full-time starter and really fill out nicely for us. You can see, he did it very well today.”
For Cano-Hernandez, it’s nice scoring goals, but his ultimate goals are to be a good teammate and to get his team back to the state tournament.
“I try to do my best; I try to help out everybody,” he said. “In past years, I’ve been in the shadow of a bunch of players like Brandon Welter and helping them out. I’m going to try to do my best and try to go back to state.”
The Cougars return to the Thomas O. Anderson Fields for their Big Nine Conference opener Tuesday when they entertain Winona.