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Wildcats nip Cardinals in Section 2A boys soccer final

GETTING DEFENSIVE — Fairmont Area defenders Carson Pomerenke (4) and Adrian Sanchez (14) slow down a shot by Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Seth Konik (33) before Cardinal netkeeper Berny Esquivel Rosales (00) makes the save during Thursday’s Section 2A boys soccer championship match at Wescott Field in Austin. Fairmont Area’s Wyatt Luhmann (16) looks on. (Photo by Greg Abel)

AUSTIN — Even a head-jarring collision could not keep Fairmont Area goalkeeper Berny Esquivel Rosales from generating a dozen acrobatic saves during Thursday’s Section 2A boys soccer championship clash.

Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa striker Dan Mikaeo and his Wildcat teammates, however, remained patient and persistent to eventually net a 2-0 victory over the upset-minded Cardinals on the artificial turf at Wescott Field in Austin.

Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa (16-0-2) 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.

Fairmont Area, which gained the sectional finale for the first time since the 2012 campaign, closed out the season with an 11-6-2 overall record.

“When you looked at our preseason roster this fall, not too many people imagined we would make it this far, but our guys believed in the team concept and overcame the odds,” said Fairmont Area head boys soccer coach Brady Meyer.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, freshman striker Seth Konik knocked home an open-netter for the Wildcats’ first goal of the sectional showdown with 24:31 remaining in the first 40-minute half.

Esquivel Rosales veered left out of the box to track down a bouncing pass and collided with PIZM striker Drew Christopherson. With the Cardinals’ senior goaltender face down on the turf from the crash, Konik launched a crossing kick from the far right end line into the webbing for a 1-0 lead.

Esquivel Rosales, however, was not alone in providing solid defense as Carson Pomerenke and Eli Broomfield denied the Wildcat forwards easy access to the box. In fact, Pomerenke swept away a Christopherson breakaway at the 29:41 juncture of the first half to keep the game still scoreless.

Trailing 1-0, striker Prince Lebbi nearly delivered the equalizer by rushing the right wing and just missed by inches of hitting the webbed target at the 13:21 mark of the first half.

Esquivel Rosales turned away six of the Wildcats’ seven first-half shots on net, but the Cardinals’ offense managed just three shots on goal during the first 40 minutes. Fairmont Area did not record a shot on goal during the second half.

Mikaeo, who was turned away empty-handed by Esquivel Rosales on a 20-yard blast from the point and later a post-hugging line drive, squeezed home an insurance goal with 1:27 remaining in regulation to salt away the win. Christopherson delivered the centering pass from the right wing before Mikaeo found the webbing.

Jason Ryan tallied three saves to net the shutout for PIZM.

“I thought we shut them down from a defensive standpoint for most of the game, but their (the Wildcats) time of possession and touches proved too much for us down the stretch,” said Meyer.

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