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Alexandria girls' soccer: Cards oust St. John's Prep in 8A

Junior midfielder Kayla Vanderveur controlled the ball against a St. John's Prep defender during the opening round of the Section 8A playoffs last Thursday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

The Alexandria girls' soccer team knew the trick to slowing down the St. John's Prep offense in the Section 8A tournament opener was slowing down the state's leading scorer for the Johnnies.

Senior Clare Culligan came into last Thursday night's game with 56 of her team's 72 goals on the season. That's an average of more than three goals per game and more than twice as many as any other player in Minnesota.

"We knew we had to shut her down," Alexandria head coach Tom Roos said, "even if we left numbers up in other parts of the field."

The Cardinals weren't able to shut her out, but they essentially made her a non-factor in running away with a 5-1 win over the Johnnies. Culligan had the only goal of the game for her team, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Cardinals scored four second-half goals to break open what was a 1-1 game after halftime.

"That meant having a mark on her all the time and even two players smothering her anytime the ball was in our defensive end," Roos said of their defensive strategy. "Megan Abrahamson and Jess Syvrud were awesome at shutting down Culligan, with Anne Schneiderhan and Madison Edmond doing a great job platooning in. Culligan did manage to get one goal but was held to just two shots on goal all evening."

Her only goal of the night tied things at one apiece less than two minutes into the second half after Anna Spanbauer scored the only goal of the first half for Alexandria. Spanbauer would add another goal in the second half as the Cardinals opened things up down the stretch.

The shot that got that rolling came off the foot of Bria Neinaber. The junior forward was on the left side of the box when she lofted a beautifully placed ball over the Johnnies' Leah Schellinger in goal.

That opened the floodgates for the Cardinals. Spanbauer followed with her second of the night a few minutes later before Taylor Ellingson scored on a rebound and Rachel Drew put the finishing touches on the win with 10 seconds left. Madison Edmonds and Anna Lee added assists during that stretch as Alexandria advanced to Saturday to take on second-seeded St. Cloud Cathedral.

Sarah Bruzek was solid in goal again for Alexandria as she earned the win behind a strong defensive effort in front of her.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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