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Fairmont Area zips St. Peter to reach Section 2A soccer finals

JUST FOR KICKS — Fairmont Area’s Rayah Quiring (left) leaps into the air after connecting on a penalty kick for the first goal of the Cardinals’ Section 2A semifinal soccer game against St. Peter on Tuesday night at Floyd B. Johnson Field in St. Peter. Fairmont Area’s Brooklyn Meyer (second from left), Mackenzie Householder (22) and Joni Becker join the post-goal celebration. (Photo by Greg Abel)

ST. PETER — The second and the third times proved the charms.

No. 3-seeded Fairmont Area avenged its only two losses of the regular season, while Cardinals’ sophomore striker Rayah Quiring converted her second penalty kick in as many playoff games Tuesday night at Floyd B. Johnson Field in St. Peter.

Quiring and senior striker Joni Becker produced second-half goals, while sophomore goalkeeper Cadence Becker made seven saves to power Fairmont Area to a 2-0 Section 2A semifinal soccer triumph over the No. 2-seeded St. Peter Saints.

Fairmont Area (14-2-1) advances to the sectional championship clash for a second consecutive season. The Cardinals face No. 4-seeded Waconia (12-2-4) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night on the turf in New Prague. Waconia shut out No. 8-seeded New Ulm, 5-0.

St. Peter, which squeezed by Fairmont Area 1-0 in the two teams’ season-opener on Aug. 22 and 2-1 on Sept. 12, ended its season with a 12-4-2 record.

“They say it’s hard to beat a team three times in a row, and I guess we proved that,” said Fairmont Area head coach Matt Nielsen.

Despite constant offensive pressure via endline drives by Joni Becker and sophomore forward Sami Lenort during the sectional semifinal’s opening 40-minute half, the Cardinals could not find the twine.

St. Peter senior defender Amelia Carlson managed to impede the progress of Becker, Lenort and midfielder Lexi Kaufman by reducing their attack angles to keep Fairmont Area off the scoreboard.

“Amelia Carlson really created problems for our forwards and just played her heart out tonight,” said Nielsen. “My hat’s off to her for her effort.”

But Carlson was not alone in producing defensive highlights as Cadence Becker tipped away Carlson’s long-distance loft off of a direct kick with 5:37 remaining in the first half.

Quiring, who delivered the game-winning penalty kick in the Cardinals’ 2-1 overtime victory over Holy Family Catholic on Saturday, cashed in her second consecutive ‘foul shot’ at the 26:12 juncture of the second half to stake Fairmont Area to a 1-0 margin.

“It was hard to tell exactly what happened in the box concerning the foul, but we were confident that Rayah could convert on another PK,” said Nielsen.

Cadence Becker then maintained the Cardinals’ one-goal advantage by catching Liz Mitchell’s rising chip shot at the 27-minute mark and extending to her left to making a diving save on Emma Jones’ turn-and-shoot blast from the point with 11:30 remaining in regulation.

St. Peter head coach Breanna Steele then opted to move the strong-legged Carlson from her defensive anchor position to the frontline for added offensive punch, but the move backfired.

Kaufman muscled her way up the middle of the field and launched a missile to a breaking Joni Becker. The high hop eluded a St. Peter defender, Becker settled the pass and turned on the jets on a breakaway opportunity. Saints netkeeper Katie Gurrola’s only chance was to challenge Becker at the top of the box, and the fleet-footed striker angled her shot into the open netting for a key insurance goal with 5 minutes to go.

“I honestly didn’t think I could settle it in time to get the shot off,” Joni Becker said with a grin.

Gurrola finished with four saves for the Saints, who outshot the Cardinals by a 7-6 margin.

Fairmont 0-2–2

St. Peter 0-0–0

Scoring Plays

1st Half

No scoring.

2nd Half

FA–Rayah Quiring penalty kick, 26:12.

FA–Joni Becker (Lexi Kaufman), 5:00.

Shots on goal: Fairmont Area 3-3–6; St. Peter 2-5–7. Corners: Fairmont Area 3; St. Peter 1.

Saves: Cadence Becker (FA) 7; Katie Gurrola (SP) 4.

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