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Card boys' soccer: Fergus Falls Hillcrest defeats Alexandria 2-1 in Section 8A playoffs

Fergus Falls Hillcrest exploited a short lull by the Cardinals in the second half of Saturday's Section 8A boys' contest to hand Alexandria a 2-1 loss and end the Cardinals' season.

"The Alexandria boys had a very difficult playoff game against Hillcrest," said head coach David Vinje. "The Cardinals started the game by putting pressure on the Comets' back four.

"We knew going into the game that Hillcrest's offense was powerful, but they would oftentimes leave themselves vulnerable in the back.

"The guys did a great job of keeping the ball in the Comets' half, and continued to apply pressure on the ball throughout the first half."

Alexandria got the first advantage in the game as Zach Larum was able to play a pass to Cody Carlson who, with one touch, slotted the ball past the charging Comet keeper to give Alexandria a 1-0 lead.

Hillcrest came right back just a minute later as Luis Martinez blasted a shot past Lamb.

"The Comets were able to get a goal of their own from an impossible angle," said Vinje, "tying the game at 1-1 going into the half."

Just one shot found the back of the net in the second half as Comet Luis Diaz fired a corner kick, leaving Hillcrest up 2-1.

"The [second] half saw a dip in the Cardinals' energy," said Vinje. "Hillcrest was allowed much more time on the ball, and they created some good opportunities because of it.

"When awarded a penalty kick, the Comets played the ball into the area about knee high. A sprinting Comet player was able to get on the end of the pass and knock the ball past a helpless Zach Lamb."

Down 2-1, the Cardinals regained their first half energy to create some opportunities, but couldn't find the goal.

"If a couple of bounces or touches would have gone differently, the Cardinals would have found the leveling goal," said the coach. "However, we were unable to do so.

"I cannot say enough how impressed I have been with this group of guys," Vinje added. "The way they have handled themselves in all situations this season has been truly impressive.

"Too many times this statement is used by coaches about teams, but the actions of the players do not back it up. I've been very fortunate to have experienced these guys the past three years and cannot compliment them enough.

"Fortunately, their actions have not gone unnoticed," he said. "The coaches of the CLC have again, for the second season in a row, awarded the Alexandria boys' soccer team with the CLC sportsmanship award."

Alexandria was the third seed in the tournament and finished the year with a 6-9-3 overall and 3-6-3 Central Lakes Conference record.

Follow #AlexMN @EchoPress Sports Editor Lori Mork on Twitter at @morkwriter.