Fairmont Area to kick off state soccer against Holy Family Catholic

TAKING FLIGHT — Members of the 2021 Fairmont Area Cardinals girls soccer team playing Holy Family Catholic in Wednesday’s Class A state quarterfinal game at 5:30 p.m. in Waconia are, front row (left to right): Isabella Larson, Kalie Hanna, Anna Busche, Ellie Schultze, Sami Lenort, Cadee Becker, Allison Janssen, Rayah Quiring, Mackenzie Householder, Anna Utermarck and Alexis Newville. Back row: Head coach Matt Nielsen, statistician Kinze Stradtman, Madi Stromberg, Carissa Saxton, Elayna Anderson, Kennedy Becker, Alyssa Wiederhoeft, Selma Bleess, Bailey Martinson, Samantha Castro, Hannah Goerndt, Kate Busche, Abby Cihoski and assistant coach Claire Gerhardt. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — It’s 110 miles from Fairmont to Victoria, but the Fairmont Area Cardinals and the Holy Family Catholic Fire are hardly strangers to one another in the Minnesota prep sport of girls soccer.

Fairmont Area netted a 2-1 victory over Holy Family Catholic in the Section 2 quarterfinals in 2019 on the heels of the Cardinals dousing the Fire by a 4-2 decision in the sectional semifinals in 2018.

Now, the pair of former sectional rivals square off on a bigger stage when Section 2 champion Fairmont Area puts its 13-4-2 overall record on the line against No. 1-seeded Holy Family Catholic (13-2-2) in a Class A state quarterfinal clash at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday on the turf surface in Waconia.

Holy Family Catholic, which opened its door academically in 2000, and Fairmont Area are two of five first-time state qualifiers in Class A this fall. The Minnesota State High School League recently expanded the number of divisions in girls soccer from two to three.

“This is a perfect example of the three-class system at work,” said Matt Nielsen, who’s been the only head coach in the 16-year history of Fairmont Area’s girls program.

No. 4-seeded St. Anthony Village (11-3-1) and No. 5-seeded Breck School (8-4-4) each will make their state debuts when they clash in a 7:30 p.m. Thursday quarterfinal in Waconia.

The winner between Fairmont Area and Holy Family Catholic advances to face the St. Anthony–Breck winner in a 5 p.m. state semifinal on Thursday, Nov. 4, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

In the lower half of the Class A state bracket, No. 2-seeded Minnehaha Academy (13-2-2) kicks off the quarterfinals against Proctor (10-7-2) at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Irondale. Minnehaha makes its fifth state appearance — the school’s first since 2004, while Proctor qualified for the third time overall, but first since back-to-back bids in 1998 and 1999.

No. 3-seeded and state newcomer Cotter of Winona (16-1-2) battles St. Cloud Cathedral (10-7-1) in a 5:30 p.m. quarterfinal Wednesday in Monticello. The winner faces either Minnehaha or Proctor at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Class A state championship is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, back at U.S. Bank Stadium.

While Fairmont Area holds a 2-0 edge in playoff games against Holy Family Catholic since 2018, the Fire defeated the Cardinals by a 3-1 regular-season decision back on Oct. 2 in Victoria this fall.

Maeve Kelly, a 5-foot-10 senior striker, generated two of her team-leading 32 goals in the Fire’s two-goal win over the Cardinals, while sophomore midfielder Gabby Legg supplied the other goal for HFC. Senior defender Carissa Saxton accounted for Fairmont Area’s lone goal.

“The upside to having played them earlier this season is the fact our team doesn’t feel intimidated by playing the No. 1 seed out of the gate,” said Nielsen. “The downside is more from playing them in sections in previous years. They know we have the ability to defeat them, so they’re not going to overlook us as essentially the No. 8 seed.”

Nielsen knows the Cardinals will have their proverbial work cut out for them in attempting to shut down Kelly — a Miss Minnesota Soccer finalist.

“Maeve Kelly presents problems on free kicks, corners and rushes up the field due to her size and strength,” said Nielsen. “I believe she’s going to play hockey for Boston College next year, so you know she’s a good all-around athlete.”

Kelly tops the Fire’s statistical charts with 38 points, sophomore midfielder Maggie Dowling enters Wednesday’s quarterfinals with 10 goals and a team-best seven assists, while senior forward Mary Furlong brings 10 goals and six assists to the turf. Junior keeper Olivia Paidosh has recorded a team-best 74 saves between the pipes.

Fairmont Area’s roster, however, features some impressive numbers heading into the program’s first-ever state tournament, too.

Rayah Quiring, a 6-foot senior striker, carries a team-leading 28 goals along with eight assists into Wednesday’s state quarterfinal clash, while senior midfielder/forward Sami Lenort leads the Cardinals with 12 assists to complement seven goals.

Junior forward Anna Utermarck (10 goals, 4 assists) and senior midfielder Mackenzie Householder (9 goals, 5 assists) each have generated 14 points for Fairmont Area, followed by Saxton with four goals and five assists, and junior midfielder Kate Busche’s four goals and four assists. Senior midfielder Ellie Schultze has netted six points, senior defender Alyssa Wiederhoeft has generated five points, junior midfielder Allison Janssen has doled out four assists, while freshman Kennedy Becker has chipped in three goals in limited playing down the stretch for Fairmont Area.

While the Cardinals can score with the best teams in the state, senior Cadee Becker has proven one of top keepers from a defensive perspective. Becker recorded a season’s-best 20 saves to help offset Rochester Lourdes’ 22-5 shots-on-goal edge in Fairmont Area’s 3-2 victory in the Section 2 championship match last Thursday in Austin. Becker enters the state quarterfinal with 100 saves and seven shutouts on the 2021 campaign.

“Half of our four losses this season were to state qualifiers Holy Family Catholic and Minnehaha, so we’ve faced some tough competition so far,” said Nielsen. “Now I hope we can do our penguin dance at least one more time this season.”

Editor’s Note: A state sendoff for the Fairmont Area Cardinals girls soccer team will take place at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Fairmont High School.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.35/week.

Subscribe Today