Cardinals kick way to 6th consecutive soccer victory

TAKE AWAY — Fairmont Area defender Brielle Meade (middle) maneuvers the soccer ball away from Mankato Loyola’s Olivia Harazin during Big South Conference action Tuesday night at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont. Cardinal defenders Morgan Shriver (back left) and McKayla Chambers (back right), along with the Crusaders’ Annelise Winch (7), watch the action. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont Area Cardinals girls soccer lineup extended its winning streak to six in a row during Tuesday night’s Big South Conference clash with the Mankato Loyola Crusaders in Fairmont.

Sophomore striker Joni Becker produced a pair of goals, including one of the Cardinals’ two successful penalty kicks, while goalkeeper Taylor Eicholz made eight saves to earn the shutout during a 4-0 victory over the visiting Crusaders at Kot Soccer Complex.

“That zero on the scoreboard tonight was a true team effort and not just one person,” said Fairmont Area head coach Matt Nielsen. “Everybody contributed to the shutout.”

The Cardinals made efficient work out of their eight first-half shots on goal, converting half, including each of their initial two blasts on the Crusaders’ net.

Midfielder Isabelle Lenort’s tenacity near the box finally paid dividends for Fairmont Area during the Big South clash’s opening three minutes. Lenort settled a trickling soccer ball out of a scrum near the top of the box and lofted an 18-yarder over Loyola goalkeeper Claire Orcutt’s extended reach for a 1-0 lead at the 37:38 juncture of the opening half.

Junior striker Abby DeWitt and Becker worked a potent 1-2 attack to double the Cardinals’ margin to 2-0 at the 33:20 mark. The high-scoring DeWitt sprinted by the Crusaders’ defense, stutter-stepped Orcutt and calmly threaded a crossing pass to Becker on the left doorstep for the uncontested tap-in.

Fairmont Area then drew a pair of infractions inside the box to merit back-to-back penalty kicks. Becker utilized her left foot to slice her penalty kick inside the left pipe for a 3-0 lead with 6:26 remaining in the first half.

Senior striker Brooke Hunwardsen then capped the Cardinals’ first-half offensive output by drilling her penalty kick past Orcutt to the low right side for a four-goal advantage with 3:00 remaining before intermission.

“It’s another first for our program — I can’t recall converting two penalty kicks during the same game,” said Nielsen.

DeWitt, Hunwardsen, Lenort and Lexi Kaufman applied swarming pressure in the Cardinals’ offensive zone, while McKayla Chambers, Morgan Shriver, Brielle Meade and Mikayla Stradtman dictated the defensive pace throughout the game.

“Two (games) down and two to go this week,” Nielsen said in reference to his Cardinals’ four-game stretch over a six-day period.

Fairmont Area (6-2, 4-1 Big South) plays host to Waseca at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Kot Soccer Complex before hitting the road to St. Paul Highland Park on Saturday for a 2 p.m. non-league contest.

Mankato Loyola (3-5-1, 2-4) travels to St. Peter on Thursday.

Loyola 0-0–0

Fairmont 4-0–4

Scoring Plays

1st Half

FA–Isabelle Lenort (unassisted), 37:38.

FA–Joni Becker (Abby DeWitt), 33:20.

FA–Becker, penalty kick, 6:26.

FA–Brooke Hunwardsen, penalty kick, 3:00.

2nd Half

No scoring.

Shots on goal: Fairmont Area 8-3–11; Mankato Loyola 3-5–8.

Saves: Taylor Eicholz (FA) 3-5–8; Claire Orcutt (LOY) 4-3–7.

Fairmont Area and Mankato Loyola played to a scoreless tie on Tuesday during junior varsity league action in Fairmont.

Netminder Kaiden Boerner recorded seven saves for the Cardinals, who generated 30 shots on goal and four corners.

Boys Soccer

Mankato Loyola 5, Fairmont Area 0 — The Crusaders posted a five-goal victory over the Cardinals during Big South Conference boys soccer action on Tuesday in Mankato.

No individual or team statistics were provided by either team.

Fairmont Area (0-8) travels to Waseca on Thursday night.