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Cards soccer season ends in 8A semifinals

The Alexandria soccer team gathered at midfield after a heartbreaking loss to Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday night. The Cardinals finished the year with a program-best 15 wins on the way to their first CLC championship. (Echo Press photo by Blaze Fugina)

The Alexandria girls’ soccer team jumped out to a 2-0 lead Tuesday in the section 8A semifinals, but three second-half goals by Sartell-St. Stephen ended the Cardinals’ season.

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Anna Spanbauer scored two first-half goals to help the Cardinals jump out to the early lead, with assists to both Anna Lee and Hayley Burns. But the entire game changed early in the second half when Alexandria’s all-state goalkeeper Sarah Bruzek suffered a concussion while covering up a loose ball.

Head coach Tom Roos said the team was reeling emotionally after seeing Bruzek go down with an injury.

“To lose that player with a lot of game left to play and the wind in our face, it makes it tough,” Roos said. “It’s an emotional setback for the team.”

Freshman goalkeeper Emma Ziegler stepped into the game after the injury and was left with the task of stopping the barrage of shots by Sartell-St. Stephen. This was not easy with the strong wind coming at the Cardinals’ defensive zone.

“We had a 9th grade goalkeeper come in that didn’t ask for that position, but we threw her into it,” he said. “She showed a lot of courage.”

Second half goals by Sophie Vansurksum, Kelsey Frank and Amanda Flemming put the Sabres up 3-2, and they held on to advance to the Section 8A championship game. They were scheduled to play St. Cloud Cathedral on Thursday at St. Cloud State University’s Husky Stadium.

The Cardinals continued to fight after seeing their goalkeeper leave the game, but they could not keep Sartell from applying the pressure.

“We saw our season flash before our eyes,” Spanbauer said. “Since our freshman year, she’s always been there for us. It was hard to see that, but we kept our heads up.”

Although they were unable to advance further in the section tournament, Roos told the team after the game they should remember the success they had this season. The Cardinals won a Central Lakes Conference title for the first time in team history, and they had the best goals against average in the state during the regular season.

Roos admitted that it would take a little time to get over the disappointment from their section loss, but eventually the team will look back on the positives from the 2013 season.

“It’s going to take a little time to get over that loss,” Roos said. “Once we get past that feeling, I think myself along with all the coaches and all the players will look back at all of the amazing accomplishments we had.”

After the game, the Cardinals’ players spent about 10 minutes huddled at the center of the field. Spanbauer said they were reminiscing about the season, and the seniors were wishing the rest of the team good luck in 2014.

“Just talking about how we’re going to miss each other, how it’s going to be different without us seniors and how we hope they have a good season next year,” Spanbauer said.

The Cardinals finished the season with a 15-3 overall record, including 12-0 in conference play.

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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