Soccer: Alex boys outmuscle Sauk Rapids-Rice to advance to the Section 8AA Semifinals
One goal is all the No. 2 seed Alexandria needed to beat the No. 7 Sauk Rapids-Rice in the Section 8AA quarterfinals on Thursday. Jack Carlson scored the lone goal of the match to push Alexandria to the section semifinals where it meets the No. 3 seed St. Cloud Tech on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Viking Bank Field in Alexandria.
ALEXANDRIA - The Alexandria Cardinals boys soccer team was a stout defensive team through the 2022 regular season, and that continued to be the case in the team’s Section 8AA playoff win over Sauk Rapids-Rice on Thursday at home.
The second-seeded Cardinals (9-5-3) defeated the seventh-seeded Storm (3-11-1) 1-0 and earned their eighth shutout win of the season.
“We play defense with a bunch of pride,” senior defender Hunter Bollman said. “We always want to keep our opponents away from our goalkeeper, Grayson Grove. We want them to play without the ball, and we want to play hard along with playing our game.”
Alexandria hosts its Section 8AA semifinal matchup against the No. 3 seed, St. Cloud Tech, on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Cardinals held the Storm to just six shots on goal and only one in the second half.
Alexandria senior midfielder Jack Carlson broke through with the only goal in Thursday’s win, which came on a free kick with 18:40 left in the first half. Junior midfielder Cole Haabala had the assist on the free kick.
“It felt nice to get one on the board early,” Carlson said. “We're kind of starting fresh again, and to be able to get on the board with a goal coming from a free kick, where we scored a lot of our goals this year, was nice.”
Carlson scored in the Cardinals' 1-0 win in the regular season over the Storm on Sept. 15.
Alexandria finished with 19 shots on goal in the win on Thursday.
Both teams had their offensive opportunities in the first half, with Alexandria putting 11 shots on goal, while Sauk Rapids-Rice had five shots on goal and two corner kicks.
Sauk Rapids-Rice’s best scoring chance in the game came with 11:30 left in the second as a shot by junior forward Samuel Olmscheid hit off the left post and toward the middle of the box, but no one was there to put the shot in the back of the net.
“We played well defensively for most of the night,” Carlson said. “We had some tough moments, but we played well enough, and now we're on to the next job.”
Thursday’s match was physical, although no cards were handed out.
“Sauk Rapids-Rice came out, and they played physical the whole time, there's no doubt about it,” Alexandria head coach Brandon Johnson said. “I thought that our guys played well, and I thought we battled well. There wasn’t any retaliation, which is what I was proud of. We held our own and played our own game. I was really proud of that.”
The Cardinals expected that kind of physical play on a night when the temperature hit below 40 degrees.
“It’s pretty common for Sauk Rapids-Rice to play a little bit more physical of a game,” Johnson said. “We talked about it at the half and just said, ‘You’ve got to play the man and play the ball.’ At the end of the day, that's what we do.”
Alexandria held Sauk Rapids-Rice to just one shot on goal in the second half, the aforementioned Olmscheid shot off the post late in the game.
Carlson said Alexandria’s physicality made the difference as the game went on.
Johnson gave senior forward Tripp Shatek the Gatorade of the Game, an award he gives out to a player he thought made a big difference in a match.
Alexandria is aiming for offense in its next playoff matchup.
“There's always that joy of coming out and having that first goal of the postseason,” Johnson said. “Certainly, the score would have been better with a couple more, but at the end of the day, we got it done. Once you get that first goal, there's this instant relief, and you can have a little bit calmer breath. But inevitably, it's still a one-goal score and one-goal lead that can change in a matter of two minutes at any time.”
St. Cloud Tech (9-6-2) defeated the No. 6 seed, Little Falls, on Thursday 8-0 to advance to Tuesday’s section semifinal.
The Cardinals and Tigers met twice in the regular season, with Alexandria winning at home on Oct. 4, 1-0. The other match was a 1-1 draw in St. Cloud on Sept. 8.
“This is going to be a great match and a good battle,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a tough one. We’re going to have to come ready to play. I think the guys just need to do a little bit more mental prep to really lock themselves into where they need to be in order to find strong success coming into that match.”
The Cardinals are hoping strong team chemistry continues to make a difference.
“One of our strengths is our connection,” Bollman said. “We were really good out there at communicating.”
The winner of the Alexandria-St. Cloud Tech match advances to the Section 8AA championship on Oct. 20 to face either the No. 1 seed St. Cloud Apollo (12-3-1) or the No. 5 seed Rocori (7-9).
The site for the Section 8AA championship has yet to be determined.
Sauk Rapids-Rice - 0 0 - 0
Alexandria - 1 0 - 1
GOALS - Jack Carlson (ALEX), 22’ (1st half)
ASSISTS - Cole Haabala (ALEX)
SHOTS ON GOAL - Alexandria, 19; Sauk Rapids-Rice, 6
SAVES - Joshua Tapio (SRR) 18; Grayson Grove (ALEX) 6
CORNER KICKS - Sauk Rapids-Rice, 4; Alexandria, 1