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Signs point to Alexandria girls being contenders in the section for years to come

The Cardinals will have a new head coach next year and good seniors to replace, but a remade section with the addition of a third class this year and talented players to build around make it likely that this program will be in the mix for state tournament bids in the years to come.

A loss to top-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret’s for the Alexandria girls soccer team at the Class AA state tournament on Oct. 27 was the end of a season and an era for the Cardinals, but it’s possible this season was also a new beginning for Alexandria.

The move from a two to three-class system in soccer in the Minnesota State High School League shuffled sections around across the state in 2021. The Cardinals saw that first hand.

Instead of playing in a section that featured two subsections and 18 total teams like they did in 2020 out of Section 8A, Alexandria’s Section 8AA field this year featured a single eight-team format. That alone makes navigating a playoff bracket for any team a less daunting task based on the sheer number of games needed to make a state tournament.

The remade fields also moved some of the perennially-talented bigger programs like Bemidji and Sartell-St. Stephen to the Class AAA level. The goal across the board in Minnesota was to help even the playing field by adding a third class, and Alexandria proved to be the best of this new-look Section 8AA field all season as the Cardinals went 12-0 against section opponents during the regular season and section tournament. The hope for those in this program is it is just the start of getting back to the state tournament on a more regular basis after making the field for the third time (2003, 2012) in program history.

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“I think it’s a team that if it’s healthy and they work together like they did this year, I would love to see them come back to the state tournament,” 17-year Alexandria head coach Tom Roos said after the game against Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Oct. 27. “They had this experience tonight. Maybe with a different draw and different bounce, I’d love to see them get into U.S. Bank Stadium. Not just get to the state tournament, but win the first round. It’s such a great group of girls. Their potential is unlimited.”

Roos will watch this program closely from a different seat now as he heads into a new phase of his coaching career. He accepted a position as the head coach of the new men’s and women’s soccer programs at Alexandria Technical and Community College starting in 2022.

Roos has helped build this Cardinals program into a competitive group, and it was a special season for him to go out on. He finishes with a 174-107-22 career record.

“It’s not about me. Honestly, I just think of the girls,” Roos said. “That’s who it’s about, but I am proud that this was such a great season. The girls are going to move forward. They have a great foundation to build on next year. We’ve created a program that is strong and solid. I’m excited that it’s going to evolve and I’m hoping will get even better and stronger.”

Kylie Rasmussen, Kylee James, Morgan Sanow, Joanna Kietzmann, Hayden Morgan, Erika Zick, Ellise Tesch and Jordan O’Kane were the seniors on this state-tournament roster that helped lead the way for this group. Every season creates new holes to fill with graduations, and next year will be no different. But there is certainly optimism that the Cardinals can be right back knocking on the door of a state tournament berth again in 2022.

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Junior goalkeeper Sophia Vinje and junior defender Ellen Panther will return as anchors for what was a deep and talented defensive unit this season. Junior all-state striker Ella Westlund also makes for a great offensive weapon to build around, while sophomores Ellie Heydt, Sophia Korynta and Greta Oldenkamp and freshman Allie Haabala were constantly in on the action up front this year as well.

Seven total juniors (Alisah Floding, Ella Sorenson, Alexa Eggebraaten, Westlund, Panther, Morgan Jones and Vinje) will give the team another good group of seniors to lean on next fall.

There was disappointment of a season ending in the eyes of players after falling to Benilde-St. Margaret’s last week. But there is also reason to believe that it won’t be nine years before Alexandria makes it back among the state’s best again.

“We’re going to learn a lot from our seniors this year and a lot from our coaches and just take that with us,” Panther said. “There’s going to be a lot of empty spots, but there were a lot of empty spots filled this year. Same thing next year. We’re going to have to work together, build that chemistry as good as this one, and hopefully we can go to state again.”

Related Topics: SOCCER
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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