Tigers outshoot Cardinals in 2A soccer tilt

FULL STEAM AHEAD — Fairmont Area’s Grace Higgins (4) motors toward the soccer ball as Albert Lea’s Sydney Nelson (right) attempts to cut off Higgins during first-round Section 2A soccer action on Tuesday night at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont. Albert Lea’s Sydney Doran (left) and Fairmont Area’s Celia Simpson (middle back) watch the action. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

FAIRMONT — After a scoreless first half, a 1-all second segment and two shutout 10-minute overtime halves, the Section 2A first-round girls soccer clash between Fairmont Area and Albert Lea came down to a shootout on Tuesday night.

Jacy Rosas’ second goal of the playoff clash on the heels of a Cardinals’ miss from the No. 3 spot in the shootout, combined with teammate Ella Zelenak’s net-finding liner from the No. 4 position, clinched the visiting Tigers’ triumph at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont.

No. 10-seeded Albert Lea (7-7), who avenged a 2-1 regular-season loss to Fairmont Area on Sept. 11, advances to play No. 2-seeded Northfield in a 6 p.m. sectional quarterfinal on Saturday in Northfield. The Raiders eliminated No. 15-seeded Faribault, 4-0.

No. 7-seeded Fairmont Area ended its season with a 9-8 record.

“We had three opportunities to score the go-ahead goal in regulation, but we just couldn’t capitalize,” said Cardinal head coach Matt Nielsen. “When you don’t convert those chances into goals in the playoffs, your season comes to an end.”

Fairmont Area junior striker Abby DeWitt lined back-to-back right endline shots during the 29th minute of the opening half of regulation only to have Albert Lea netminder Marissa Vogt bat away the initial one before catching the second.

With Vogt and Cardinal netkeeper Taylor Eicholz maintaining opening-half shutouts, Tiger midfielder Rachel Rehnelt tried to change the score with a last-second attack before halftime. Rehnelt pocketed a steal along the far sideline before sprinting by Fairmont Area’s defenders. The Albert Lea senior drilled a grass-bender that Eicholz gloved as time elapsed.

Ironically, the two teams exchanged quick solo goals during the early stages of the second half before experiencing 30-minute scoring droughts.

Fairmont Area junior midfielder Grace Higgins delivered the playoff contest’s first goal at the 34:04 juncture. Striker Isabelle Lenort drove the left wing before firing a crossing pass to DeWitt near the right wing. DeWitt calmly settled the ball and centered her pass to Higgins, whose left-footed kick snuck past Vogt and inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.

Rosas later capitalized on a short zone-clearing pass by Fairmont Area’s defense by garnering the steal and ricocheted her right-wing blast off of Eicholz’s fingertips and inside the right post for the equalizer at the 31:17 mark.

Lexi Kaufman and Lenort utilized strong rushes to the Tigers’ net during the first 10-minute overtime before Vogt caught Kaufman’s right-wing loft and Albert Lea defenders Laura Flaherty and Zelenak sacrificed their bodies to block Lenort’s two attempts at the twine.

Both teams skidded shots through the box during the second extra session to no avail before the Tigers scratched out a 4-2 edge in the five-player shootout to seal the win.

Hunwardsen and Lenort hammered home goals for Fairmont Area out of the Nos. 1 and 2 spots, while Turena Schultz and Rehnelt did likewise for Albert Lea, respectively, for a 2-all shootout score.

The Cardinals’ third shooter missed wide left before Rosas converted for a 3-2 margin. Vogt made a diving stop on Fairmont Area’s fourth shooter before Zelenak’s liner inside the right post proved the game-winner.

Vogt recorded a dozen saves to net the win for the Tigers, while Eicholz turned away 10 shots for the Cardinals.

AL 0-1-0-0-(4 in SO)–1

FA 0-1-0-0-(2 in SO)–1

Scoring Plays

1st Half

No scoring.

2nd Half

FA–Grace Higgins (Abby DeWitt), 34:04.

AL–Jacy Rosas (unassisted), 31:17.

1st OT (10 minutes)

No scoring.

2nd OT (10 minutes)

No scoring.

Shootout (scoring in order): Brooke Hunwardsen (FA), Turena Schultz (AL), Isabelle Lenort (FA), Rachel Rehnelt (AL), Jacy Rosas (AL), Ella Zelenak (AL).

Shots on goal: Fairmont Area 5-3-2-3–13; Albert Lea 5-3-1-2–11.

Saves: Marissa Vogt (AL) 5-2-2-3–12; Taylor Eicholz (FA) 5-2-1-2–10.