FAIRMONT - The No. 1-seeded Fairmont Area Cardinals boys soccer team has reached the Section 2A final for the first time in the team's short history with a 2-0 shutout of the No. 5-seeded St. Peter Saints at the Kot Soccer Complex on Tuesday night.
Fairmont Area (15-3) advances to face No. 3-seeded Mankato East (9-8-2) at 7 p.m. Friday night at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont for the sectional championship.
Mankato East reached the sectional final via a 1-0 shootout victory over No. 2-seeded Mankato West.
FLANKED BY SAINTS — Fairmont Area forward Oscar Svenfelt (8) slices between St. Peter’s Stephen Friend (left) and Will Springer during a Section 2A semifinal soccer game on Tuesday night at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont. Photo by Leanna Becker
Mankato East downed Fairmont Area 3-1 in the two teams' regular-season meeting on Sept. 11, but the Cardinals are hoping for redemption.
"We are in new territory after tonight," said Fairmont Area head coach Jeff Kot. "We have lost in two section semifinal games, but have never made it to a final. That was a big goal for us this year to make it and be able to host this game. We've done that now."
And it was a battle for a spot in the Section 2A championship.
The Cardinals struck first in the physical game. After an intense moment, featuring two yellow cards for the Saints, Fairmont Area defender Joe Washa booted a ball down the field and over Saints' defenders to put the ball right in front of the goal. A guiding touch from Grant Becker put the ball past the St. Peter keeper to make it 1-0 at 20:56 in the first half.
Senior Lucas Miles and Oscar Svenfelt each carried the ball into scoring position in the first half for Fairmont Area, but the swarming Saints' defenders managed to stifle any chance of a goal by clearing the ball.
"I thought defensively we played good strong defense and worked the ball well outside the middle and into the flats," said Kot. "St. Peter really had a streak going, they had won the last four games and they played well tonight. But we got a chance to avenge one of our losses this season and now we have another chance."
Becker scored the second Cardinal goal in the second half when he secured a bouncing pass from Brock Johnson to blast it past the Saints' goaltender and into the twine to make it 2-0 with 28:35 left in the game.
"We knew that St. Peter had a very dangerous corner kick. The first half we did well and didn't allow them any and in the second half, only gave up three," said Kot.
The Saints' had three speeding shots zip past the front of the Fairmont Area goal in the second half off the corner shots.
Cardinals' keeper Matt Tennyson made a diving stop at the right post to hold onto the shutout with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Tennyson recorded nine saves in the game, while the Saints fired 15 shots on goal.
St. Peter's Devin Idso made 15 saves on 17 Cardinal shots on net.
"I'm glad I brought out the extra bleachers tonight. Our fans and theirs almost filled them," said Kot. "It will be exciting on Friday, but we know that it will be a challenge. We are looking for more redemption and I know we've changed how we do things since we played East last."
St. Peter 0-0 - 0
Fairmont Area 1-1 - 2
FA - Grant Becker (Joe Washa), 20:56.
FA - Becker (Brock Johnson), 28:35.
Saves: Devin Idso (STP) 8-7-15; Matt Tennyson (FA) 3-6-9.
Shots on goal: Fairmont Area 17; St. Peter 10.