The Alexandria girls soccer team had some athletes the Cardinals needed to see at the varsity level early on this season to really get a feel for how competitive this team could potentially be.
It’s only been two games, but there’s been a lot to like during a 2-0 start where Alexandria has yet to allow a goal. The Cardinals followed up a 4-0 win at Detroit Lakes on Aug. 28 by overmatching Fergus Falls in the home opener on Tuesday. Alexandria scored five goals in the first 40 minutes and coasted to a 7-0 victory.
“We talk about breaking the field down into a defensive third, a neutral third and an attacking third. I think we controlled this game in all three thirds of the field,” head coach Tom Roos said. “We were getting shots on goal and finishing at a high percentage.”
It took about 13 minutes for the Cardinals to break through against the Otters. Once they did, there was no looking back. Freshman Allie Haabala got behind the defense and ran onto a ball before beating Fergus Falls’ keeper, Brynn Walter, to make it 1-0.
A little more than a minute later, sophomore Sophia Korynta made it 2-0 on a similar look at the net when she got behind the defense and took a pass from fellow sophomore Greta Oldenkamp to make it 2-0.
“We have some speed up there, and we’re trying to attack in a more organized attack rather than just kicking it down and chasing it,” Roos said. “But that final piece quite often is putting that ball behind a defender and letting an attacker make a run on the ball. I feel good we’re attacking with numbers, and that speed is showing up in that last phase of the attack.”
Ella Westlund, who scored three goals in the win over Detroit Lakes in the opener, started to take over after that 2-0 lead against the Otters. She scored to make it 3-0, and then sent a nice crossing pass to junior Ella Sorensen for a wide open look on the left side that made it 4-0. Sophomore Elle Heydt put the finishing touches on a dominant first half when she lofted a free kick over the arms of Walter in goal to make it 5-0.
Korynta played a lot of minutes on varsity last season as a freshman, but she’s stepping up into a more prominent role this year. She joined Westlund in leading the attack much of the night as Korynta added a second goal for the final score of the game late in the second half.
“The two sophomores (Greta Oldenkamp and Elle Heydt) who are on the team now, I’ve been playing with them forever,” Korynta said. “Our chemistry is awesome. We’re always building off each other. With Allie (Haabala) coming in, all us attacking positions have built off of each other. It’s awesome to see how well we work together after only being together for two weeks.”
Haabala is one of the young players for Alexandria who will get many opportunities to shine on varsity this season, and she got her second goal of the night with a little more than 10 minutes left in the second half.
“Allie attacks really well on the outside flank,” Roos said. “I see a defender seem like they have a good line on their defensive run against Allie, but Allie must have just that little burst of speed that allows her to get past her. All the girls, they beat that outside ‘D’ and they’re cutting in as they attack the goal line. They’re just offering a little cut-back pass into the middle. We’ve worked on attacking on the outside flank, and they’re doing a really nice job of that.”
The offense has clicked through the first two games, and so too has the defense. Junior goaltender Sophia Vinje needed to make just five saves against the Otters to get her second shutout in as many games this fall.
“They’re doing a really great job stepping up,” Westlund said. “Kylee (James) obviously has a lot of experience being on varsity for all of her years in high school. She’s done a great job of communicating to the other ‘D’ and just being a leader for them as they step into their roles too.”
Westlund, a junior captain, has liked what she has seen out of many of the younger athletes being asked to move into big roles so far.
“They’ve really stepped up to their positions,” Westlund said. “They’ve been filling in all the gaps amazingly. I’m really proud of what they’re doing right now.”
Roos has liked the composure and character this group has shown through the fast start. The varsity game certainly has not looked too fast for the Cardinals.
“We talk about trying to play with speed, but that doesn’t mean playing in a frantic mode,” Roos said. “They’re playing with both speed and composure. I think they’re showing some character, trying to work together with each other, building trust with each other.”
The Cardinals know they will play tougher opponents as the season goes on, but they are building some confidence through two straight wins.
“The biggest thing is just going in ready to focus, ready to see what coach has and applying everything into the games,” Westlund said. “Take everything we learned in practice and implement it into the game. Then using momentum from games like these into the next games coming up.”