Loïc Mesanvi from Lakeville Sud – Twin towns
Head coaches are always asked when they felt the turning point of their season had taken place. For Lakeville South men’s football coach Aaron Fenton it was immediate – Game 1.
The Cougars were following Benilde-St. Margaret’s 2-0 in Game 1 with under 20 minutes to go, and Fenton was already talking to his assistant coach on the sidelines about what the team needed to work on most in practice that followed.
Defeat was almost a guarantee at the time, except for the fact that the Cougars had Loïc Mesanvi.
“So we pass the ball into space for Loïc, and he scores three goals in 15 minutes,” said Fenton.
Lakeville Sud won 3-2.
“It’s like, ‘Guys, we can do this,’” Fenton said. “We just built on that positivity and kept moving forward from there.”
Lakeville South went 14-1-1 this season, advancing to the Class 3A, Section 1 final before losing to Rochester Mayo. Mesanvi was at the head of the Cougars charge. The senior has 24 goals and seven assists, and is the Pioneer Press East Metro male soccer player of the year.
“When they put me in the lead, my job was to score goals and win games for my team, and my teammates rallied around that, feeding me every time,” said Mesanvi. “I thought I was at the top so it’s my job to score goals so that’s what I tried to do.”
He did it at an elite level. Over the past few years, Fenton has been most impressed with Mesanvi’s elite ball skills. He can take anyone 1 to 1, and there’s a good chance he’ll win. But this year that may have been overshadowed by his ability to put the ball in the net.
He’s had 10 games in which he’s scored multiple goals, and Fenton would only rank five of his 24 goals as relatively “easy” scores. The rest was difficult.
“The rest of the coaches on the sidelines are just in awe of what just happened, and you can’t help it,” Fenton said. “Scoring from the wrong angle or shooting before a goalie knows it’s going to happen. There have been some very good goals scored this year.
For example, Fenton noted the first of Mesanvi’s three goals in Game 1 against the Red Knights. During the first three quarters of the game, Mesanvi failed to capitalize on a few occasions. Usually at this point the scorers are frustrated. Not him. He finally broke through on a play in which he dribbled and then calmly chipped his shot over the keeper’s head.
“The degree of comfort you need after being frustrated with not scoring before and being able to guide him to the goalie 1 on 1, that says a lot,” said Fenton. “He’s a gifted player and someone who worked hard to be able to do it. It was really impressive. I’ll remember it.”
Then there was a score against Owatonna in which Mesanvi launched a rocket with his left foot at a sharp angle about five yards from the baseline. This won over Huskies coach Robert Waypa.
“He emailed after the game like ‘This kid is a gamer’,” Fenton recalls.
These comments are common to someone with Mensavi’s football sense. After the games, he will receive texts from his opponents telling him that he is one of the best players they have ever faced. Fenton said such sentiments were shared from afar at the All-State Class 3A Football Banquet.
“It kind of strengthens my ego,” Mensavi said, “but I try to stay as humble as possible.”
Fenton noted the many areas in which Mensavi grew up during his four years at Lakeville South. He showed his positional versatility, grew as a leader, and helped steer the program towards tournament spots and conference titles.
All of this as he struggled through seasons such as his junior year, in which he was hampered by injury. Mensavi has responded to this season by committing to weightlifting and adopting healthy habits to stay on the pitch.
“Just seeing him go through the years, it was like, ‘Dude, what is Loïc going to be able to do this year?’ “Said Fenton.” Then, going into senior year, we were like, ‘Please can he stay healthy?’ … He was able to stay on the field the whole time, and you saw how well he did.… Doing that as a senior and going that high is awesome.
Mensavi has not yet committed to a university. But any potential contender, Fenton said, would get a player who can step in and deliver on day one.
“When I was coaching in college I would have loved to have a freshman with his skills because he’s someone where you have a four-year-old,” Fenton said. “He’s not someone who needs a lot of time to get used to college football. I think he’s already at this level. So whoever collects it collegially will be really lucky to have a guy who can play for four years.
Anthony Bandares-Infante, Senior Midfielder, Hill-Murray: Finished with 16 goals and seven assists for the Pioneers.
Dylan Barrett, Senior Midfielder, Central: Recorded 12 goals and eight assists for the Minutemen.
Sam Hoyt, senior midfielder, Mounds The big-goal scorer at Mounds View in the semi-finals
Camel Htoo, senior midfielder, Washington: Directed Washington to an appearance in a state tournament.
Nate Lee, senior defenseman, East Ridge: Led a stingy Raptors back line.