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Cardinals net Class A state girls soccer bid

SPRAWLING SAVE — Fairmont Area goalkeeper Cadee Becker (00) dives to make a save on a shot by Rochester Lourdes’ Rose Otto (second from right) during the Section 2A girls soccer championship game Thursday night at Wescott Field in Austin. Cardinal defenders Alyssa Wiederhoeft (24) and Samantha Castro (18) watch the action. (Photo by Greg Abel)

AUSTIN — Fairmont Area head girls soccer coach Matt Nielsen received the perfect gift for his birthday on Thursday — a sectional championship and a bid to next week’s Class A state tournament.

Senior netkeeper Cadee Becker recorded a game-leading 20 saves, while junior forward Kate Busche produced the decisive tiebreaking goal during the second half to pace the Cardinals’ 3-2 triumph over the Rochester Lourdes Eagles in the Section 2 finale on the artificial turf at Wescott Field in Austin.

Fairmont Area (13-4-2) awaits the outcome of today’s seeding meeting that will determine its state quarterfinal opponent as well as the match’s time, day — Oct. 26-28 — and location.

Rochester Lourdes ended its season with a 15-4 overall record.

“What a terrific way to celebrate a birthday,” said Nielsen, who guided Fairmont Area to its first-ever state girls soccer berth during the program’s 16th season.

“The third time really is the charm,” a grinning Nielsen added in reference to the Cardinals’ third appearance in a sectional championship game during the past four years.

Fairmont Area lost a 3-0 decision to Mankato West in the 2018 sectional finale, a 3-0 decision to Waconia in 2019, and was under quarantine for Covid last year and did not compete in the postseason.

“As long as you have Cadee in goal, you’re always in good shape and have an opportunity to win,” said Nielsen.

While the sure-handed Becker was stonewalling Lourdes time after time during each 40-minute half, Fairmont Area’s offensive attack proved highly efficient in converting three of its five shots on net into points on the scoreboard.

Forward Anna Utermarck cashed in the Cardinals’ initial shot on goal by lacing a rising liner toward the cage off one of their four corner kicks. Utermarck put the correct English on her punt that caromed into the twine inside the left post for a 1-0 lead at the 32:55 juncture of the opening half.

Junior striker Amelia Gossman, however, answered with an equalizer at the 18:27 mark of the first half. Gossman worked the right point before hammering a 30-yarder that Becker partially deflected before the ball spun into the right-corner webbing.

Fairmont Area forward Sami Lenort then restored her team’s one-goal margin by lofting her patented left-footed high-arching blast from the left wing into the top right shelf. Rayah Quiring delivered the assist on Lenort’s go-ahead goal with 9:23 remaining before intermission.

“Lourdes managed to tie it up twice each time we scored, but we finally scored the winning goal less than two minutes after the second tie,” said Nielsen. “The timing of Kate’s (Busche) goal was key.”

After Rose Otto tapped home a putback shot on the heels of Gossman’s left-wing rush and hurdle play at the 35:12 mark, Kate Busche broke the deadlock at 2 by nailing a shot into the right corner of the webbing for a 3-2 lead with 33:23 showing in the second half. Carissa Saxton’s long free kick set up the scoring chance.

Becker finished with 20 saves to net the win, while Lourdes goalie Addison Lange stopped two shots on the game.

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