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Soccer: Alexandria girls ready for playoffs after battle with a top Class AAA program from Sartell

The Sabres (14-0-1) wrapped up an undefeated regular season on Thursday by beating the Cardinals (13-2) in a 1-0 game after scoring off a free kick in the second half. Even with the loss, it was a confidence boost for this Alexandria team that now enters the Section 8AA playoffs on Oct. 12 as the likely No. 1 seed.

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Alexandria's Ellen Panther, 17, and Lydia Oldenkamp fend off Sartell's Reese Kloetzer during the first half on Oct. 6, 2022. Kloetzer and her Sartell teammates won a 1-0 game over the Cardinals (13-2, 8-2 CLC) to wrap up the Central Lakes Conference championship outright after finishing the regular season 9-0 in CLC play and 14-0-1 overall.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA — Thursday night’s regular-season finale between two talented girls soccer teams in Alexandria and Sartell-St. Stephen is not likely to have much bearing on section seeding for the Cardinals.

Alexandria’s 13 wins and 11 shutouts coming into the night had catapulted this team to the No. 1 ranking in all of Class AA in the QRF on Minnesota-scores.net . A loss to an undefeated Class AAA program in the Sabres (14-0-1, No. 11 Class AAA QRF) would not hurt much, but a win would give the Cardinals even more confidence heading into the 8AA playoffs on Oct. 12.

Alexandria (13-2) played right with the Sabres before falling 1-0.

“We were excited,” Alexandria junior Greta Oldenkamp said of facing the Sabres. “We get nothing out of playing teams we’re going to beat by a lot. This was a great end to the regular season to get us ready for playoffs. I think our defense was ready, and our defense needed to play this team. They scored off a free kick. Our defense played solid. Our outside-mids came back. I’m so proud of our team and how we came together this game, and I think we’re going to kill it in playoffs.”

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Alexandria junior Greta Oldenkamp clears a ball by winning a race against Sartell's Chloe Turner on Oct. 6, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The win gives Sartell the Central Lakes Conference championship all its own with a 9-0 league record. The Cardinals finished second and 8-2 in CLC play.

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“We have to keep in mind that they’re a top team in (Class) AAA without a loss,” Alexandria head coach Amy Korynta said. “It could have gone either way tonight. We knew it was going to be a battle, and it was. This is the type of game we need going into playoffs.”

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The lone goal of the night came with 27:49 left in the second half.

Sartell got a free kick from the 20-yard line. The initial kick short-hopped Alexandria goalkeeper Sophia Vinje right in front of the goal. Sartell senior Kendal Omann was the first to get to the rebound as she sent it in for the 1-0 lead.

The Sabres average over 5 goals per game. They have scored 76 goals total and three times reached double digits, with a season-high 15 goals on Sept. 20 against Rocori.

“I think if anything (this game) just boosted our confidence with the way we did play tonight,” Korynta said. “They had a couple players who all season have been super dangerous and have a lot of goals. Defensively, they didn’t get any good looks. It just showed how tough we can be.”

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Alexandria's Abby Faber, left, and Sartell's Kaia Gack meet along the sideline during a Central Lakes Conference match on Oct. 6, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Alexandria’s Morgan Jones came close to putting in the equalizer in the second half. She sent in a hard line drive on a free kick from the 30-yard line with almost 20 minutes left that went just left of the post. Elle Heydt also sent in a free kick from the 25-yard line that Sartell keeper Anna Lundeen saved with 4:56 remaining. Lundeen did not have to make a lot of saves, but she was there to make them when needed.

Both Sartell and Alexandria came in allowing less than half a goal (0.4) per game. The Sabres have now posted 11 shutouts as well.

The first half featured only one good look at the net. Sartell’s Reese Kloetzer got some space near the 10-yard line and sent in a shot from the middle of the field that Vinje dived to get a hand on and send just left of the post. This was Vinje’s 95th game in goal after starting now for a sixth straight season.

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Alexandria senior goalkeeper Sophia Vinje sends the ball down the field in the Cardinals' match against Sartell-St. Stephen on Oct. 6, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Vinje is part of a senior class with Alexa Eggebraaten, Ella Westlund, Ellen Panther, and Morgan Jones on the varsity roster who Oldenkamp lauded for leading the way in what she called an amazing experience so far through the regular season.

“Our seniors are leaders,” Oldenkamp said. “They’re my best friends. They’re the best. I love them.”

That chemistry for the Cardinals has shown on the field all fall and will be a key going into the playoffs where the Cardinals figure to be in more close games like they played in on Thursday.

“This team with most of the starters, this is our third year together,” Oldenkamp said. “We communicate and we connect, we rotate and move all together. We just need to keep our chemistry tight as a team to win every battle.”

The Section 8AA field will be officially seeded on Oct. 9 through the QRF. East Grand Forks (12-2-1) and St. Cloud Tech (8-4-2) look like the second and third seeds behind the Cardinals.

The quarterfinal round is set for Oct. 12, with the semifinals on Oct. 15. Both rounds will be played at the high seed before the championship on Oct. 18 is played at a neutral site.

Alexandria did everything it could to prove it is a top Class AA team during the regular season. The Cardinals are excited now for the opportunity that awaits them in the postseason.

“I’m confident that we can prepare and get ready for the next game,” Korynta said. “Honestly, I won’t speculate. I can’t. I owe it to the girls to just worry about the next game. It’s here. Now, let’s go out and show what we’re capable of doing.”

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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