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Cards capture first CLC title

Senior Taylor Ellingson (right), shown here in a game against Detroit Lakes earlier this season, is part of an Alexandria defense that has allowed just five goals through the first 12 games of the season this fall. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

The Cardinal girls’ soccer team accomplished one of its goals and made a little history in the process after winning the program’s first Central Lakes Conference championship by taking its 11th straight game last Thursday night.

Alexandria used its defense and the goaltending of Sarah Bruzek to pick up its eighth shutout in a 2-0 win over Sauk Rapids-Rice. The win, coupled with a loss by Sartell, wrapped up the league title for this team as the Cardinals moved to 9-0 with three games left in CLC play.

“I think it means a great deal to the program,” head coach Tom Roos said. “The CLC has some very strong teams with some AA schools represented in St. Cloud Tech and Brainerd and some very strong A teams, Sartell being an example. So I feel it’s an accomplishment that we can build on in future years.”

The Cardinals used two second-half goals to break open a game that was tied for much of the way. Anna Lee had a free kick from 40 yards out that she sent toward the far post. Anna Spanbauer was there as she went up and sent a header into the net for a 1-0 lead with just seven minutes remaining.

Soph­omore Karsen Granning then put the finishing touches on things with a high shot from 35 yards out that got over the hands of the Sauk Rapids keeper.

That was plenty for senior keeper Sarah Bruzek and this Alexandria defense. Simply put, the Alexandria defense has been almost impossible to score on this season. They have given up just five goals in 12 games and haven’t allowed an opponent to find the back of the net at home yet.

“Defensively, we’re playing very well,” Roos said. “We’re playing some very strong teams and teams are finding that they’re getting a fair amount of offensive-zone time against us and at times they are getting off a respectful number of shots. But our defense is doing a good job of keeping the shots for them from outside the perimeter of the penalty area. We’re giving up time in our defensive zone, but we’re eliminating the great chances we’re giving up.”

Bruzek has taken away many of the quality scoring chances that do sneak through the defense. She lowered her goals against average to 0.4 in the process of picking up her eighth shutout of the season in the win over Sauk Rapids.

“I would say without a doubt,” Roos said when asked if Bruzek has established herself as one of the top Class A goalies in the state. “Statistically, her goals against average is tops in the state right now and tied with Breck’s goalie…When we’re playing a tough opponent, the ball spends a little time in our defensive end. I have a feeling that Bruzek is being tested perhaps more than say Breck’s goalie might be, just because of the strength of the team in front of her.”

The Cardinals are confident Bruzek and this defense will give the Cardinals a chance no matter who they play when section tournament time comes around.

“A defensive makeup is how our team has been identified for the last few years,” Roos said. “We feel we have some good goal-scoring punch. Our goals have been spread out among many players on the team. Anna Spanbauer is our leading scorer, but we have many other players who have multiple goals. We’ve worked hard to score on set plays, like free kicks and corner kicks, just realizing that we don’t seem to get a lot of goals in just the natural flow of the game.”

With the conference title in their rearview mirror, the Cardinals are focused on their next goal: making it back to the state tournament for the second straight season.

“I think we’re very confident because we know with good defense and a good goalie behind the defense we’re going to be in every game we play,” Roos said. “That being said, we can’t take anything for granted because it only takes one lucky break for the other team to get a goal in.”

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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