The Alexandria girls soccer team put together a big season last fall that almost included knocking off eventual Section 8A champion Bemidji in the first round of the playoffs.

The Lumberjacks, 13-6-1 a season ago, needed a penalty-kick shootout to beat the Cardinals 2-1 on Oct. 14. After that close call and a 10-6-1 season overall, Alexandria was ready to be back on the practice field last week for the start of fall practice after more offseason uncertainty.

“It’s fun to be out and back doing what we like doing,” Alexandria head coach Tom Roos said. “It’s also challenging because of obvious reasons with extra protocols to follow in order to try to be safe and healthy, but it’s good to be back.”

Of the fall sports that were allowed to play this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic, soccer is the one where athletes have the most face-to-face interaction with opponents. Coaches don’t want to take their players’ aggressiveness away on the field, but they are doing things between contact to minimize risk.

Roos ran his players through a drill in practice on Aug. 18 where they were in pairs with one ball. The athletes handled the ball during the drill, but when they were done, the balls were sanitized and set aside for almost 10 minutes.

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Roos said they are being aware of not having multiple people handling gear such as cones that are put on the field during drills. Then it’s just a lot of reminders for athletes to be thinking about things they can do to abide by a different set of guidelines.

“Some of the things we talk about is when you come off the field and get your drink of water, that’s the time you hand sanitize,” Roos said. “There is contact in soccer. That can’t be avoided, so we’re not saying, ‘No, don’t have contact when you’re playing.’ What we are saying is be aware of what you’re doing, and just as often as you are getting a drink of water, hand sanitize.”

On the field, Roos likes what he has with this 2020 team. Kylee James, Emma Reineke and Myah Kremer were honorable-mention All-CLC athletes as underclassmen in 2019. Sophomore Sophia Vinje is also back this fall with a bunch of experience in net, and fellow sophomore Ella Westlund returns after earning the Hustle Award from her teammates in 2019.

“I’m super pumped up,” Roos said. “Our numbers are a little smaller than they have been in other years, but we have some really strong players coming up. We have strong players coming in our junior varsity teams. Our ninth grade group is small but there’s talent in it, and we have some varsity players who are ready to pick up where they left off last year.”

The Cardinals will play a schedule mostly made up of CLC teams, along with Bemidji and Moorhead. That offers chances to see plenty of talented programs as this group focuses on the excitement of getting back to competing again after a 10-win season.

“We have a really competitive conference, and we have a very competitive schedule because besides our conference games, we have games with Bemidji and Moorhead,” Roos said. “They’re two very strong competitors. It’s going to be a fun season.”

ALEXANDRIA GIRLS SOCCER SCHEDULE

(Schedule is subject to change)

Aug. 27 at Sartell, 5 p.m.

Sept. 1 vs. Rocori, 7 p.m.

Sept. 3 at Sauk Rapids-Rice, 5 p.m.

Sept. 8 at St. Cloud Tech, 7 p.m.

Sept. 10 vs. St. Cloud Apollo, 5 p.m.

Sept. 15 vs. Willmar, 7 p.m.

Sept. 17 at Bemidji, 5 p.m.

Sept. 22 vs. Moorhead, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 at Brainerd, 7 p.m.

Oct. 1 vs. Fergus Falls, 7 p.m.

Oct. 8 vs. Sartell, TBD