FAIRMONT - Back-to-back South Central Conference girls soccer championships.
Goalkeeper Shelby Smith made eight saves, while striker Monica Illikman produced one goal and an assist to guide the New Ulm Eagles to a 3-1 league victory over the Fairmont Area Cardinals on Thursday.
New Ulm (12-2-1 overall, 6-1-1) clinched its second consecutive conference crown with the two-goal decision en route to capturing its fourth SCC title over the past five seasons.
QUICK STRIKE — Fairmont Area striker Sierra Schultz (13) quick kicks the soccer ball toward New Ulm goalkeeper Shelby Smith (yellow jersey) while fending off Eagle defender Sarah Petersen during South Central Conference action Thursday at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont. Photo by Leanna Becker
"She's a big reason behind our success this season. She just seems to stop everything," Eagles mentor Jonathan Johnson said in reference to Smith. "We will definitely miss her next season."
The sure-handed Smith entered Thursday's league clash at Kot Soccer Complex with the 16th-best goals-against average (0.64) in the state and was seeking her 11th shutout of the season.
After stonewalling Fairmont Area forward Sierra Schultz on a pair of left-wing liners midway through the opening half, Smith corraled forward Aerial Wenzel's right-wing laser at the 10-minute mark to keep her shutout bid intact by intermission.
With the Eagles' senior netminder denying the Cardinals access to the visitors' net, junior midfielder Nicole Moldstad played a key role in staking New Ulm to a 1-0 lead.
Moldstad lofted a perfect curling kick from the left corner that Peyton Lewis directed into the twine amid the traffic at the doorstep. Lewis' goal occurred at the 32:15 juncture of the opening half.
Illikman then added to her team-leading goal total of 10 nearly 11 minutes into the second half via a penalty kick. After a hand ball was called on a Fairmont Area defender in the box, Illikman started from the left point and nailed a low-skidding shot inside the right post for a 2-0 margin with 29:18 remaining in the second half.
Sierra Schultz then achieved a near rarity at the 16:43 juncture - scoring a goal, her team-best fifth of the campaign, against Smith to spoil the Eagle goalie's shutout.
Chloe Colvin worked the ball to Kaylee Sauck, who booted a pass to Schultz. Schultz hammered home the crossing blast to narrow the Cardinals' deficit to 2-1.
Illikman, however, applied the pressure upfield during the ensuing 2-minute span to re-establish New Ulm's two-goal differential. Illikman drilled a 30-yarder off the right post that caromed directly to Eagle teammate Hannah Paustian at the doorstep for the putback kick at the 14:54 mark.
Ahead 3-1, Smith proved more than worthy of the task of keeping Fairmont Area off the scoreboard during the remainder of the game.
Cardinal goalkeeper Jess Koskovich added 13 saves to the team's state-leading total of 146 stops on the season.
Fairmont Area (4-8-2, 2-5 SCC) plays host to Worthington at 7 p.m. Monday at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont.
New Ulm (12-2-1, 6-1-1) travels to Mankato East for a 5 p.m. nonconference game on Monday.
New Ulm 1-2-3
NU - Peyton Lewis (Nicole Moldstad), 32:15.
NU - Monica Illikman (penalty kick), 29:18.
F - Sierra Schultz (Kaylee Sauck, Chloe Colvin), 16:43.
NU - Hannah Paustian (Monica Illikman), 14:54.
Saves: Jess Koskovich (F) 4-9-13; Shelby Smith (NU) 5-3-8.
Shots on goal: Fairmont Area 5-4-9; New Ulm 5-11-16.
Sydney Leichtnam produced the junior varsity game's only goal to power Fairmont Area to a 1-0 victory over New Ulm on Thursday night in Fairmont.
Leichtnam scored at the 26:17 juncture of the second half to break the scoreless tie.
Goalkeeper Cassidy Krusemark recorded three saves to earn the shutout for the Cardinals.
New Ulm 4, Fairmont Area 2 - Seth Wiechman scored two of the Eagles' three first-half goals, while netminder Alex King made nine saves to guide New Ulm to a 4-2 upset victory over the South Central Conference-leading Cardinals on Thursday in New Ulm.
Noah Webb literally got the ball rolling in New Ulm's direction by scoring at the 31:39 mark of the first half before Wiechman notched the first of his back-to-back goals at the 23:23 juncture. Wiechman's shot from the 6-yard line off a corner kick with 13:08 remaining in the opening segment staked the Eagles to a 3-0 lead.
Broderick Brown delivered a breakaway goal at the 20:50 mark of the second half to extend New Ulm's lead to 4-0.
The Cardinals finally spoiled King's shutout bid when Brock Johnson converted Joe Washa's pass into a breakaway goal at the 6-minute mark. Washa's outlet delivery allowed Johnson to sprint past the defense and beat King to the left side.
Fairmont Area netminder Matt Tennyson then triggered his team's second goal. Tennyson booted a long-distance kick to Lucas Miles, who delivered a pass to a breaking Grant Becker. Becker hammered home a 15-yarder from the right wing that sailed into the left side of the net with 5:30 remaining in regulation.
A minute later, Miles smacked a liner off of the pipe, but that's as close as the Cardinals would get.
Fairmont Area outshot New Ulm by a 19-12 margin, with Tennyson making six saves on the game.
Fairmont Area (12-2, 4-1 SCC) travels to Worthington on Monday for a 6:15 p.m. non-league game.
Ben Timmerman generated two goals and one assist to help guide Fairmont Area to a 3-0 victory over New Ulm during junior varsity action Thursday in New Ulm.
Timmerman converted an assist from Joe Nordquist into a first-half goal before Timmerman cashed in Ben Mitchell's pass for a second-half goal. Timmerman then assisted Trevor Iverson's goal.
Goalie Kyle Tromanhauser made five saves to net the shutout for the Cardinals (5-6-1), who hit the road to Worthington on Monday.