Cardinals declaw Tigers soccer, 2-1

TUMBLING TIGER — Fairmont Area Cardinal striker Joni Becker (white jersey) steps over tumbling Albert Lea Tiger forward Esther Yoon during nonconference soccer action Monday night at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont as Albert Lea’s Ella Zelenak (far left) watches the action. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — Five consecutive victories, including a historic one.

Strikers Abby DeWitt and Joni Becker netted goals, Morgan Shriver delivered a key long-distance assist and goalkeeper Taylor Eicholz made seven clutch saves to propel the Fairmont Area Cardinals to a 2-1 victory over the Albert Lea Tigers during Monday night’s soccer clash in Fairmont.

“That’s one monkey off our backs,” Fairmont Area head coach Matt Nielsen said with a grin. “This win was the first one ever for us over Albert Lea. Our (program’s) record against them was 0-9-3 coming into tonight’s game.”

After Eicholz and Albert Lea netminder Marissa Vogt stonewalled their respective opposing offenses for the opening 40-minute half, DeWitt utilized her Mercurial speed to break away from the Tigers’ defense during the first 10 minutes of the second segment.

DeWitt collected the ball after a midfield scrum, found a seam in Albert Lea’s backline of defense and accelerated up Kot Soccer Complex toward Vogt.

“Abby did a nice job of staying calm during her approach and kept the ball low,” said Nielsen.

DeWitt blurred past the last Tiger defender before facing an approaching Vogt. DeWitt stutter-stepped to her right and drilled the shot into the net for the nonconference contest’s initial goal at the 31:20 juncture of the second half.

Only 30 seconds later, Eicholz produced the best defensive play of the game in preventing Albert Lea midfielder Rachel Rehnelt from knotting the game at 1-all.

Rehnelt attacked the net from the right wing and ripped a crossing shot that Eicholz dived to just finger-tip out of harm’s way to keep the Cardinals ahead 1-0.

The Tigers kept the offensive pressure at full tilt with less than 15 minutes remaining in regulation before Shriver and the Cardinals’ defense triggered a second goal from long distance.

Shriver launched a long lead pass that Becker tracked down and sprinted by a Tiger defender. Becker maintained her focus and slid the ball by Vogt on a grass-clinging liner to the right for a two-goal advantage with 14:05 remaining.

Albert Lea midfielder Ashley Butt, however, had her persistence pay dividends 4 minutes later. Rehnelt lofted a 40-yard free kick off the crossbar before Butt tapped in the rebound to inch the Tigers within 2-1 at the 10:04 juncture.

Shriver, along with defenders Brielle Meade, Isabelle Lenort, McKayla Chambers and Mikayla Stradtman combined forces down the stretch to prevent Albert Lea from getting an open look at the net during the final 9 minutes.

“It was definitely a heavyweight fight tonight, but I thought our players did a nice job of maintaining their composure, especially during a physical second half,” Nielsen said in reference to the final 40 minutes that contained two yellow cards being meted out to the Tigers.

Fairmont Area (5-2, 3-1 Big South) plays host to Mankato Loyola at 7 p.m. tonight at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont.

Albert Lea (1-4) travels to Rochester John Marshall tonight for a 7 p.m. Big Nine Conference clash in Rochester.

Albert Lea 0-1–1

Fairmont 0-2–2

Scoring Plays

1st Half

No scoring.

2nd Half

FA–Abby DeWitt (unassisted), 31:20.

FA–Joni Becker (Morgan Shriver), 14:05.

AL–Ashley Butt (Rachel Rehnelt), 10:04.

Shots on goal: Fairmont Area 2-6–8; Albert Lea 4-4–8.

Saves: Taylor Eicholz (FA) 4-3–7; Marissa Vogt (AL) 2-4–6.

Yellow cards: Rachel Rehnelt (AL), Turena Schultz (AL).

Albert Lea edged Fairmont Area, 2-0, during junior varsity action Monday at Kot Soccer Complex.

The visiting Tigers netted a 15-13 shots-on-goal advantage over the Cardinals.

Netminder Kaiden Boerner made 13 saves for Fairmont Area.

Alyssa Wiederhoeft generated a hat trick to help power Fairmont Area to a 10-1 triumph over Albert Lea during C-squad action Monday in Fairmont.

Kate Busche netted two goals and one assist for the Cardinals, while Carissa Saxton tallied two goals on the game.

Sami Lenort, Alyssa Hilpipre and Cadee Becker each produced one goal and one assist for Fairmont Area, while Cayla Phinney-Colby chipped in an assist.

Becker and Kalie Hanna combined for three saves while splitting the Cardinals’ netminding duties.