Girls soccer: Cardinals challenge unbeaten Spuds
The Alexandria girls soccer team did something that no team had yet to do against the Moorhead Spuds this fall: score a goal.
Going into Tuesday night's matchup, the Spuds outscored their opponents 57-0 through six games. The shutout streak stopped midway through the first half when Morgan Jones beat the Moorhead keeper. However, the Cardinals ended up falling 4-1.
Moorhead scored twice in the opening six minutes to take an early two-goal lead. Olivia Watson and Maria Zanotti beat Alexandria goalkeeper Sophia Vinje to put the Cardinals behind the eight ball early.
"Watson is going to play Division I soccer next year at North Dakota State University, and Zanotti is another incredible striker," Alexandria head coach Tom Roos said. "They're both incredibly fast and technically strong. They can turn a defender inside out pretty easily. They are capable of making defenders look pretty silly. We tried to allow our defense to play compact and near each other where they can give support. They're also pretty fast, so if they get behind defenders, it's pretty much trouble."
Alexandria allowed an own-goal in the 15th minute on a corner kick to fall behind 3-0. However, the Cardinal's resiliency kicked in a minute later when Jones' header found the back of the net.
"I thought our ability not to give up showed a lot of character," Roos said. "By no means were our girls going to throw in the towel. They didn't quit working until the final whistle. They wanted to continue to hold Moorhead at bay and try to knock another in. Even if it was just for pride at one point, they were not going to stop playing, and I think that says a lot."
Alexandria had its chances, including 13 shots on 27 attempts. Even though the final score had the Spuds with a three-goal advantage, the Cardinals gave them a run for their money. The three-goal separation is the smallest margin of victory the Spuds have had all year.
"We put on some pretty good pressure against a team that nobody has scored on yet," Roos said. "We felt that we were able to attack the ball on the outside flanks and get the ball down there. That was a successful way of transitioning from the neutral third into the attacking zone. I thought we did that pretty effectively."
The Cardinals didn't give up a goal in the second half. In the last 40 minutes, Alexandria went stride-for-stride with Moorhead.
"Initially, there were moments where we looked like deer in headlights with their speed and their technical ability with their two strikers," Roos said. "What we improved on is we didn't concede the pass from their strikers. We started winning balls coming into their strikers. Even when the ball did get behind them, we provided support with our other defenders."
In every loss, coaches are able to pull positives going forward into the next game. What Roos learned Tuesday makes him feel confident heading into the final games of the season.
"This is the best team we've played," Roos said. "This is a team that was scoring goals in bundles. I think this should tell us that we are able to play with any team that we will encounter during this crazy season."