New Prague vs. Shakopee

7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 7


New Prague lost to Eagan in the 2001 Class 3A state championship in 2001, and the Trojans have not been back to the state tournament since.

They have found the success difficult in a section that included bigger schools and more established programs such as Shakopee, Prior Lake, Chaska and Eden Prairie.

The switch to a four-class system this year has opened the door for the No. 5-3A Trojans (12-5, 4-1), who appear well-positioned to earn their first state tournament appearance in more than 20 years as their bigger rivals have moved to Class 4A.

On Thursday, New Prague plays on the floor of the team that twice eliminated the Trojans in section tournament play and played for the Class 3A, Section 2  championship five times since 2011 when they visit Shakopee for a regular-season match.

The Trojans can use this game against Shakopee as a measure of the team's strength and not so much as a source of inspiration for the upcoming section tournaments.

Shakopee has been ranked as high as second in Class 4A this season but sits at fourth after losing three of five matches, albeit to powers Eden Prairie, Eagan and Chaska.

For Shakopee, a good showing could put the train back on the tracks. The Sabers (16-3, 7-0) close out the regular season with a string of tough games, including Lakeville North on Tuesday, New Prague on Thursday, at Prior Lake on Oct. 12 and at Eagan on Oct. 13.