The Alexandria boys soccer team started its Section 8AA postseason run against an East Grand Forks program that the Cardinals beat 8-0 during the regular season. Alexandria again left no doubt in the rematch.

Senior Bjorn Karlstad scored on a rebound goal in the box less than 10 minutes into the game. That was the start of another offensive outburst for the Cardinals as they went on to win 5-0.

“The guys played very, very well,” Alexandria head coach Brandon Johnson said. “They played a strong possession game. They worked the ball exceptionally well through the middle of the field, utilizing the entirety of the field. When a team comes at you with low pressure, you have an opportunity to kind of put your head up, take a look and make some more tactical plays. That was an area we really got to capitalize on tonight.”

Bryce Paffrath set up Alexandria’s second goal as he placed a perfect crossing pass toward the center of the field inside the 10-yard line. Holden Hansen was there as he cut from the right side and hammered home an early first-half goal to make it 2-0.

Otto Anderson added a goal in the 23rd minute where he won a race to a loose ball from near the 15-yard line and fired in a shot.

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Alexandria's Jack Carlson, left, fights for a loose ball during the Cardinals' win over East Grand Forks in the Section 8AA quarterfinals on Oct. 14, 2021. 
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria's Jack Carlson, left, fights for a loose ball during the Cardinals' win over East Grand Forks in the Section 8AA quarterfinals on Oct. 14, 2021. Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

East Grand Forks had no substitutions available Thursday as the Green Wave came with just 11 players due to injuries and a couple players being ineligible. Alexandria’s team speed and depth are too much in that situation, and the Cardinals showcased that much of the night.

The Green Wave took a penalty in the box less than 10 minutes into the second half, and senior Tyler Bright sent the penalty kick into the upper, left corner of the net for a 4-0 lead. Colin Reilly set up Jack Carlson a short while later with a beautiful through ball that Carlson finished for the 5-0 final.

Johnson got every player available on the team into the game on Thursday. He knew a 3-0 lead at the half was all but impossible for EGF to come back from against an Alexandria defense that allows less than half a goal (0.4) per game on average.

Alexandria senior Alex Greseth gets to a ball along the sideline during the Cardinals' 5-0 win over East Grand Forks in the Section 8AA quarterfinals on Oct. 14, 2021. 
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria senior Alex Greseth gets to a ball along the sideline during the Cardinals' 5-0 win over East Grand Forks in the Section 8AA quarterfinals on Oct. 14, 2021. Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

“It was just a great night to get everybody’s feet wet,” Johnson said. “My game plan coming into it was I told the guys, ‘It’s playoffs. It’s do or die. We’re here to win and make a statement. It’s been a long time since Alex has been crowned the No. 1 seed, and we want to make sure we remind people why we were worthy and fought to get that title.”

Senior Ryan Meuwissen was back in goal in the first half to help record the shutout after missing multiple games due to a hamstring injury he suffered against Brainerd on Sept. 23. Sophomore Grayson Grove stepped in well during that time as Alexandria did not skip a beat down the stretch of the regular season.

Grove got into the game for the second half as they shared goaltending duties Thursday. Neither guy had to do much with the Green Wave never getting a good look at the net. The Cardinals are glad to have an experienced player like Meuwissen back to help anchor the defense in what they hope is a long playoff run.

“He’s a talented goalkeeper,” Johnson said. “He’s an all-state nominee, and I’m pretty confident that he’s going to end up making an all-state team. He’s just an incredible candidate. Very gifted.”

Alexandria senior Thomas Klecker gets behind the East Grand Forks defense in the Cardinals' 5-0 win on Oct. 14, 2021 in the Section 8AA tournament quarterfinals. 
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria senior Thomas Klecker gets behind the East Grand Forks defense in the Cardinals' 5-0 win on Oct. 14, 2021 in the Section 8AA tournament quarterfinals. Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

Up next for Alexandria is a semifinal game against 4th-seeded Rocori at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19. The Spartans got a Nate Pederson goal with 1:08 left in the first overtime against fifth-seeded Sauk Rapids-Rice on Thursday to win 2-1.

Alexandria beat the Spartans (6-10) 2-0 on Sept. 28. Johnson did not feel his guys showed up to play the way they are capable of in that regular-season game. Intensity should not be a problem in the rematch with a trip to the Section 8AA championship on the line.

“It’s going to be a quick speed of play,” Johnson said. “Tonight, they got really confident in their ability to swing the ball and move it across the pitch. Now we need to take that and increase the speed of which we do that by 20-30%. If we can get that done, we should be able to find a lot of open passing windows to start hitting some balls at the back of the net. That’s going to be our critical components are quick movements and controlling the pace of the game. We did a great job of that tonight, and I think we’ll have a really good opportunity to show our strength going into the Rocori matchup.”