The Alexandria girls soccer team did what a No. 1 seed should do in the opening round of the playoffs on Tuesday night. Now things start getting a little tougher as the field dwindles down to the semifinals.
The Cardinals (13-2-1) beat 8th-seeded Rocori (1-15) in the Section 8AA quarterfinals as they overcame a slow start to win 3-0. Sophia Vinje got the shutout in net behind another suffocating defensive effort for Alexandria.
It was a scoreless game at the half, but Alexandria was going into the nearly 25 mile-per-hour south winds for the first 40 minutes. The Cardinals had some chances, including a perfect pass from Greta Oldenkamp to Sophia Korynta that Korynta sent off the left post.
“We still felt pretty calm from the beginning,” Alexandria midfielder Alexa Eggebraaten said. “We knew we were the better team, and we showed it. We proved it out there.”
It took less than four minutes into the second half for the Cardinals to capitalize when Eggebraaten got the ball inside the 20-yard line. She put a touch on the ball to center herself and fired it past Rocori keeper Chloee Linz for a 1-0 lead.
“It felt good,” Eggebraaten said. “We knew we were the better team from the beginning. It was just that wind. That wind was crazy. It impacts you a lot. That first half, we didn’t have that many scoring opportunities. It’s just pushing right at you.”
Alexandria junior Ella Westlund missed a couple chances she normally makes early in the game. She made good on an opportunity with almost 31 minutes left when she ran onto a loose ball near the 10-yard line and fired it past a diving Linz for a 2-0 lead.
Sophia Korynta put the finishing touches on the win with a goal seldom seen before. She scored directly on a corner kick when her shot into a stiff crosswind curled into the front, far corner of the net late in the game.
“I think I’ve seen it once a long time ago,” Eggebraaten said of Korynta’s goal from the corner. “That was pretty awesome.”
Linz made many quality stops as part of her more than 20 saves for Rocori to keep her team close through much of the game. The problem was on offense for Rocori against an Alexandria team that allowed just half a goal a game on average through the regular season. The Spartans did not get a great look at the net all night.
“I think it’s because of our bond off the field,” Eggebraaten said. “We all are so close together, so we know we can trust each other. That helps a lot with our defense because we know we can trust our defenders back there.”
The Cardinals now host 5th-seeded Detroit Lakes (8-8-1) on Saturday in the section semifinals at 2 p.m.
The Lakers beat 4th-seeded St. Cloud Tech in their quarterfinal game in penalty kicks after the two teams went scoreless through regulation and overtime. Second-seeded East Grand Forks beat St. Cloud Apollo 7-1, and third-seeded Little Falls also advanced to the semifinals with a 2-1 win against Sauk Rapids-Rice
Alexandria beat Detroit Lakes 4-0 in the season opener on Aug. 28, and is hoping for a repeat performance on Saturday.
“We just need to play how we know how to play,” Eggebraaten said. “Connect all our passes, be ready to play. Have a strong defense, anticipate all our passes and then just finish.”