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Kaufman to play soccer at Bethany Lutheran College

LOOKING UPFIELD — Fairmont Area senior midfielder Lexi Kaufman (red jersey) sprints by New Ulm Area’s Hannah Osborne and looks upfield for a teammate during Big South Conference soccer action Sept. 17 at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont. Kaufman will play soccer for Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato this fall. (Photo by Greg Abel/Sentinel Archives)

FAIRMONT — Fairmont Area head girls soccer coach Matt Nielsen used two words last fall to accurately and endearingly describe Cardinal senior midfielder Lexi Kaufman — whirling dervish.

“She never seems to run out of energy. She has an uncanny natural inner drive,” Nielsen said in reference to Kaufman. “Lexi was a great captain because she cared about her teammates’ successes probably more than her own individual accomplishments and that’s rare.”

The rare three-time Fairmont Area girls soccer most valuable player played an integral role in engineering the Cardinals’ second consecutive appearance in the Section 2A championship game last fall.

“Qualifying for the sectional finals the last two years achieved a couple of my goals, but I really wanted to win it and advance to the state tournament,” said Kaufman, “but our team still accomplished a lot.”

Indeed. The four-year letterwinner and three-year starter helped Fairmont Area compile an impressive 34-7-3 overall record from 2017-19, including the 2018 and 2019 Cardinals establishing the high school program’s single-season record for victories with 14 each campaign.

The hard-working Fairmont Area captain closed out her prolific prep soccer career with 19 goals and 15 assists, including seven goals and seven assists last fall, to earn her third consecutive spot on the all-Big South Conference team.

“If we (coaching staff) kept double-assists on goals, Lexi would’ve ended her career as our all-time leading (points) scorer,” said Nielsen. “She was our quarterback on the field. Lexi was always the one who got a steal at midfield, read the opposing team’s defense, delivered the pass to one of our forwards, who, in turn, scored the goal. But we don’t keep that stat.

“I think she’s going to be a good fit for Bethany’s (Lutheran College) soccer program next season, especially since she’s rejoining three former Fairmont (Area) teammates there.”

Kaufman will reunite with former Cardinal prep standouts Sadie Sandersfeld, Brielle Meade and Mikayla Stradtman when she puts her multi-faceted soccer skills on display when the Vikings kick off the season by playing host to Martin Luther College at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1, in Mankato.

“That’s one of the reasons I chose to play at Bethany,” Kaufman said in reference to already knowing Sandersfeld, a senior defender who earned second-team all-conference honors last fall; along with Meade, a junior defender; and Stradtman, a sophomore transfer who also plays defense. “I also like the fact that I can be in a soccer program where I could play right away and don’t have to wait.”

Since she plans to major in nursing at Bethany Lutheran, Kaufman realizes her window of opportunity to compete in her favorite athletic endeavor may be limited due to the intense and challenging nature of her academic schedule down the road.

“I want to be an emergency room nurse so I can help save people’s lives. I find the field rewarding,” said Kaufman.

In the meantime, Kaufman will complete one of her final high school courses that she will expand on at Bethany Lutheran — anatomy — via distance-learning online, while continuing to train for playing soccer at the next level.

“Since both the high school weight room and (workout) gyms in town have been closed, I’ve tried to stay in shape by running outside and getting a few touches with a (soccer) ball,” said Kaufman. “We (the BLC Vikings) start summer training in two weeks, and we’ll (players and coaches) go over the four-day-a-week workouts at a Zoom meeting (today).”

Hopefully, Kaufman will be able to find a Bethany Lutheran soccer teammate who will deftly intertwine her hair into her trademark long braid and just maybe, she’ll be able to don the Vikings’ No. 7 jersey in the fall — all coronavirus pandemic restrictions aside.

“Every game, I had the ritual of (Cardinal teammate) Brooklyn Meyer braiding my hair and it seemed to work out well,” Kaufman said with a laugh. “I wore seven the last couple of varsity seasons because it’s my grandpa’s (Greg Kaufman) lucky number. Who knows if I’ll get it again at Bethany.”

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