Almost an upset

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 17, 2001

In the most recent high school coaches poll, the Rochester Lourdes girls’ soccer team was ranked No. 5 in the state in Class A. With a 13-2-0 record and 3.7 goals-per-game average, the Eagles should have made quick work of the 4-7-1 Albert Tigers &045; except that no one told Albert Lea.

Riding their defense, the locals held Lourdes scoreless through 80 minutes of regulation play and more than nine minutes of overtime, surrendering the lone goal 55 seconds away from a tie Tuesday at Hammer Field.

&uot;Defensively, we can play with almost any team,&uot; stated a proud ALHS coach Rick Barnhill. &uot;We went in against Lourdes with a low-pressure strategy that repeatedly denied them scoring opportunities. They became very frustrated because they could not get behind us. Our challenge is to use that as a springboard to launch attacks. We are not going to overwhelm top teams with our offensive prowess. We are normally a one or two-goal team, so we need a strong defense to put the lock on close games.&uot;

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The Tigers’ young back line logs a lot of playing time without a rest and this game was no exception.

Seventh-grader Sophie Miller is the starting central defender, flanked by sophomore starters Jenny Birkhofer and Samantha Overgaard. Backing them up is sophomore goalie Kendra Olchefske.

&uot;Against Lourdes, we bunkered in and forced them to come to us,&uot; said Barnhill. &uot;This prevented them from opening up the game but also meant that our offense had to cover an awful lot of ground to get near their goal. You don’t get many chances against a team as good as they are, so we needed to capitalize on the few chances we were given. It is a numbers game and we were outshot 28-3 by a team that was faster, more skilled and had more physical presence. Still, with all that, they only got one past in the waning moments. Kendra (Olchefske) made several good saves and I have to compliment the quality play from Amanda (Arends) and Jenny (Birkhofer). As the team approaches sections, our strengths and our areas to improve are coming into clearer focus.&uot;