Goals figured to be at a premium between two of the best Section 8AA girls soccer teams on Tuesday night, which is why Alexandria converting an opportunity less than nine minutes into the game figured to be so important.

East Grand Forks (6-1) and the Cardinals (7-1) are two of the top three teams in the section right now with Little Falls (7-0-1). All three of those programs allow less than one goal a game behind good defense and goaltending.

Alexandria junior Ella Westlund and sophomore Sophia Korynta connected early in the first half when Westlund sent the ball to Korynta on a run near the 10-yard line. Korynta got a couple quick touches on the ball to position herself just to the left of the net before firing in a goal that set the tone for a 3-1 win for Alexandria.

Alexandria's Ella Westlund, back, hugs teammate Sophia Korynta after Westlund's assist set up Korynta for a first-half goal that proved to be enough in an important Section 8AA win over the Green Wave. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)
Alexandria's Ella Westlund, back, hugs teammate Sophia Korynta after Westlund's assist set up Korynta for a first-half goal that proved to be enough in an important Section 8AA win over the Green Wave. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)

““For us especially with our team, once we get our first goal we seem to get more of a spark in us,” Alexandria senior defender Kylee James said. “That early goal was really important for us because it just sets the tone for our game.”

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It might be the biggest win of the season so far for the Cardinals in their quest to be in the running for a top seed in the Section 8AA Tournament.

“It was very important,” James said. “We knew coming into this game that it was one we needed to win. They’re one of the biggest competitors in our section. It’s was really important for us to pull through that win.”

Alexandria sophomore Greta Oldenkamp dribbles the ball against the East Grand Forks defense on Sept. 21, 2021. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)
Alexandria sophomore Greta Oldenkamp dribbles the ball against the East Grand Forks defense on Sept. 21, 2021. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)

The Green Wave settled in defensively after that early goal. It was still a 1-0 game with almost 55 minutes run off the clock, but Alexandria struck with back-to-back goals within a couple minutes of each other to put the game away.

James assisted on both of those. She found junior forward Ella Westlund streaking up field as Westlund ran onto the ball and got behind the defense for a clean look at the net that she doesn’t miss. Seconds later, freshman Allie Haabala all but ended things when she scored to make it 3-0.

Alexandria’s only loss so far is against a non-section opponent in Willmar in a 2-1 final. Five of the Cardinals’ wins have been shutouts as junior goaltender Sophia Vinje and the defense in front of her continue to make things tough for the opposition.

Alexandria junior goalkeeper Sophia Vinje sends the ball downfield during the first half on Sept. 21, 2021 against East Grand Forks. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)
Alexandria junior goalkeeper Sophia Vinje sends the ball downfield during the first half on Sept. 21, 2021 against East Grand Forks. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)

Vinje had nine saves to get the win. The only goal for the Green Wave came late in the second half when sophomore Maggey Plante converted a free kick. Eighth-grade goalkeeper Skyla Rustad had 14 saves for East Grand Forks.

“The shots they’re going to get are going to be easy (saves),” Vinje said of her defense. “With the defense that we have right now, they’re going to get fluky little looks that are going to be easy to come and scoop up.”

Vinje said the win over the Green Wave and how they played overall is just what the Cardinals needed coming off the loss to Willmar on Sept. 14 and then beating Sauk Rapids-Rice in a 2-0 final on Sept. 16.

Things are about to get even more challenging against a good Class AAA team when Brainerd (5-0) welcomes in Alexandria on Thursday. Then on Sept. 27, the Cardinals go to Moorhead, another AAA program, with the Spuds struggling right now during a 1-7 start.

The Alexandria girls soccer team runs onto the field before the game to low fives from youth soccer players from the Alexandria community. The Sept. 21, 2021 games against East Grand Forks were part of Youth Soccer Night for both the boys and girls programs for the Cardinals as young players got in free with their jerseys, along with being able to go on the field and then stay for a fireworks show after the girls' game. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)
The Alexandria girls soccer team runs onto the field before the game to low fives from youth soccer players from the Alexandria community. The Sept. 21, 2021 games against East Grand Forks were part of Youth Soccer Night for both the boys and girls programs for the Cardinals as young players got in free with their jerseys, along with being able to go on the field and then stay for a fireworks show after the girls' game. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)

Alexandria plays Little Falls down the road on Oct. 2 at home in an afternoon game at 1 that should have plenty of section significance. It all sets up what should be an exciting final couple weeks of the regular season as the Cardinals try to position themselves as well as they can for the playoffs.

“We always talk about control with our team and working on keeping the ball on the ground and finding those open passes,” James said. “I think that’s something we need to do in these next games because those teams are going to be really good with ball control. We need to match it.”