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Pushing the limits

Anna Spanbauer (right) handles the ball against a Fergus Falls defender on Saturday night. Spanbauer scored the tying goal for Alexandria in regulation to force overtime in a game that the Cards won in a shootout. (Echo Press photo by Blaze Fugina)

The season nearly ended for the Cardinals girls’ soccer team against Fergus Falls on Saturday, but a late goal by Anna Spanbauer evened a 1-1 game and eventually led to a win in an extended shootout.

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Fergus Falls scored the first goal by a visiting team at Lincoln Field this season in the first half of the section soccer game to go up 1-0. The Cardinals had plenty of scoring chances in the second half, but as the seconds ticked down, they were unable to tie the game. Then, with less than seven minutes remaining, Spanbauer headed in a corner kick by Emily Korkowski to finally tie the score.

Spanbauer normally takes corner kicks for the Cardinals but elected not to on Saturday. The move paid off as she wound up scoring.

“I actually usually take the corner kicks, but I was feeling kind of off, so I was like Kork, you’ve got it,” she said. “I’m not one of the runners, so I don’t have an assigned spot like any of the other girls. I was just kind of standing there, nobody marked me and it came to me and I took it.”

The regular time ended with a 1-1 tie between the teams, as did the two 10-minute sudden-death overtime periods. This set up a shootout with five shooters for each team.

Fergus Falls built an early 2-0 lead in the shootout, but Kayla Vanderveur and Anna Lee scored for the Cardinals. Three key stops by goalkeeper Sarah Bruzek tied the shootout after five.

Next was a one-versus-one shootout to decide the section game. Korkowski scored for the Cardinals, which ended up being the game winner as the next Fergus Falls shooter hit the crossbar on her attempt.

The Cardinals players admitted they were nervous heading into the shootout. Many of them had previous experience with shootouts, as that is how they won their section finals game over Sartell-St. Stephen last season.

“We’ve been practicing them a lot and we’ve been through it in section finals, but all of our hearts were beating pretty fast there,” Spanbauer said. “We were all pretty nervous for that.”

Down two goals in the shootout, Bruzek needed to make some key saves to keep the Cardinals’ season alive. She tried to maintain a positive attitude while trying to keep Fergus Falls from widening their lead.

“It’s kind of a mind game at first, like try to get into their head, and then watch their plant foot as they kick,” Bruzek said.

After giving up her first goal all season to an opponent at home, Bruzek was appreciative to her teammates when they finally tied the game in the closing minutes. Once that goal went in, she knew the two would go into a shootout.

“I give my team props, scoring a goal with like four minutes left in the game,” said Bruzek, who was credited with four saves on the night. “Awesome. It gave me a second chance.”

Head coach Tom Roos said he expected a close game but had hoped they would be able to pull ahead before entering a shootout. As the Cardinals were down and the clock continued to tick, he began to think maybe the team had used all of their lucky bounces that season.

“It does start to cross your mind, but most importantly, the girls did not stop,” Roos said. “It didn’t seem to cross their mind.”

The Cardinals continued the section playoffs at Lincoln Field Tuesday, yesterday, against Sartell-St. Stephen, who won 4-1 over Little Falls on Saturday. The winner of that game advances to the section title game, which will be played at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at St. Cloud State University.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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