FAIRMONT - Fairmont Area defender Nicole Lenort thwarted nearly every Waseca breakaway rush, while Cardinal goalkeeper Alex Christianson got her gloves on 20 Bluejay blasts on Tuesday night.
Lenort and Christianson's defensive prowess, combined with forward Sierra Schultz's vapor-trail goal, helped Fairmont Area's soccer team battle undefeated Waseca to a key 1-all South Central Conference soccer tie in overtime at Kot Soccer Complex.
"Our defensive effort began and ended with Nicole Lenort tonight," said Cardinal mentor Matt Nielsen. "To call her play exceptional would be an understatement."
SPRAWLING STOP — Fairmont Area goalkeeper Alex Christianson (left) sprawls to prevent Waseca forward Brittany Miller from getting a shot by her during South Central Conference soccer action Tuesday night at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont. Cardinal defenders Talitha Burtis (back left) and Nicole Lenort move in to assist on the play. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
After 6-foot midfielder Katelyn Miller lofted a perfect backspinning 35-yarder over Christianson's fingertips and just under the cross bar with 28:31 remaining in the opening half, Lenort and the Cardinals' defensive unit put the clamps on the Bluejays' high-scoring attack.
Waseca was averaging just less than six goals per game heading into Tuesday's SCC clash in Fairmont, with senior Brittany Miller topping the Bluejays' scoring charts with 11 goals and four assists, and freshman forward Breanna Karsten connecting for nine goals.
But Lenort and Christianson, along with backline mates Talitha Burtis, Hailey Wolter and Ashten Atzenhoefer, took the steam out of Waseca's high-octane offense by smoothly rotating to close narrow seams while utilizing the perfect angles to prevent good looks at the net.
Christianson later proved her mettle by making a sprawling two-handed bat-away stop on a slicing Karsten from point-blank range to keep the Cardinals' deficit at 1-0 with 24 minutes left in the initial half.
"Alex played rock solid defense between the pipes tonight. That's probably the best game she's played for us from an intensity standpoint," Nielsen said in reference to his junior keeper.
With Christianson and Lenort motoring in shutdown mode, the fleet-footed Schultz generated only the ninth goal of the season allowed by sure-handed Waseca netminder Linsey Johnson.
Schultz utilized her Mercurial speed to track down a long kick into Fairmont Area's offensive zone, split a pair of Waseca defenders and beat Johnson, who managed to get a hand on the initial shot. Schultz tapped in the trickling carom to knot the game at 1-all with 10:26 left in the opening half.
After that juncture, both defenses delivered airtight play as Lenort denied a 2-on-1 scoring opportunity with 2:20 left before intermission. Brittany Miller led the upfield rush and had a teammate on the right wing, but Lenort managed to find the right angle to skid the ball over the end line for a save.
Lenort then matched the speedy Karsten stride-for-stride on three pivotal rushes that seemed destined for potential go-ahead goals that never materialized due to the Fairmont Area's smothering defense.
Linsey Johnson displayed her defensive skills during the second half, spoiling Cardinal forward Kayley Shoen's left-wing sprint created by Brooklyn Leichtnam's pinpoint lead pass at the 28-minute mark.
Johnson also stonewalled Leichtnam's penalty kick five minutes later before denying Schultz's right-wing liner with 3:22 left in the first half of the 10-minute overtime session.
Johnson finished with 11 saves for Waseca, while Christianson delivered a game-best 20 stops.
Fairmont Area (3-1-1, 2-0-1 SCC) travels to St. Peter on Thursday, while Waseca (5-0-1, 2-0-1) plays host to Mankato Loyola.
W - Katelyn Miller (unassisted), 28:31.
FA - Sierra Schultz (unassisted), 10:26.
Shots on goal: Waseca 10-11-0-21; Fairmont Area 7-4-1-12.
Saves: Alex Christianson (FA) 9-11-0-20; Linsey Johnson (W) 6-4-1-11.
Waseca squeezed past Fairmont Area, 1-0, during junior varsity action Tuesday in Fairmont.
Cardinal goalkeeper Haley Burmeister recorded eight saves, while the Fairmont Area offense generated 20 shots on goal.
Waseca 3, Fairmont Area 0 - The Bluejays blanked the Cardinals, 3-0, in a South Central Conference game on Tuesday night in Waseca.
After battling to a scoreless tie at the half, the Bluejays unleashed three goals in a little more than seven minutes during the second half to take the win.
Luis Gonzales used an unassisted goal at the 19:44 mark of the second half to give Waseca the one-goal lead.
Hugo Castaneda then doubled the Cardinals' deficit with another unassisted goal at 14:52.
Sam Havnen had a chance to cut the Bluejays' lead in half with a penalty kick at the 12:40 mark, but a save by Waseca goaltender Josh Metzdorff denied it. Waseca scored seconds later off the foot of John Lewer via a Castaneda assist.
Fairmont Area's Trason Arens stopped 25 of Waseca's 33 shots on goal.
Metzdorff made seven saves, with the Cardinals firing eight shots on goal.
Fairmont Area (1-5, 0-3 SCC) hosts St. Peter in a conference game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night at the Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont.