When the 2019 season opened, the Sheyenne boys soccer team did not know it would be competing in its very first state tournament — let alone entering the competition as the No. 1 seed from the East region .

The Mustangs had not even picked out their goaltender yet.

All that has changed with the emergence of sophomore keeper Cooper Svaleson. The young net minder has dominated between the pipes since taking over in Eastern Dakota Conference play.

"He was in the EDC match and I'm like, 'You're going in,' " said head coach Jon Melendez. "'Good luck and all the confidence behind you,' and he's like, 'What?' "

Had the young star known he would have nine clean score sheets in 16 games, he may have had a different response to being named starter.

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Svaleson has a goals-against average of just .625 and has found his groove in the last five games, only allowing a single opposing tally.

"You know it was going to be a battle this year. I knew I was going to really have to work hard this year if I wanted the spot," Svaleson said.

While the goal keeper has stolen the show, he knows those zeros on the scoreboard are in large part due to his spectacular back-line defense.

"I think we have one of the best defenses in the state especially in all those clean sheets. It's not really just me, it's a lot of them too," Svaleson said.

The Mustangs have a mentality as they head into their first state championship quarter-final against No. 4-seeded Mandan on Thursday, Oct. 10. The objective is to play as a family and focus on each other.

"It's a life lesson here on the soccer field that it's all about being our family," Melendez said. "We all rely on each other and to be successful we need each other."