5th-seeded U-12 girls surprise district foes

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 18, 2004

LAKEVILLE &045; Seeded fifth, facing some of the top squads in the state, the Albert Lea Elks Classic II girls’ soccer team was not expected to win the South District Tournament and earn a trip to state.

So much for expectations.

The locals defied the odds in last weekend’s single-elimination tournament at Lakeville, winning four games without a loss to advance to the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association Chevy Cup State Tournament.

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The locals opened Friday night against Burnsville, which beat Albert Lea earlier in the season and for this game came with some extra players.

After a hard fought scoreless first half, Anna Peterson got the Elks team on the score board with an unassisted goal several minutes into the second half. Burnsville came back and tied it. Sophie Miller hit a long shot late in the game to give Albert Lea a 2-1 win.

Saturday Morning Albert Lea faced Rochester’s No. 1 team. Their previous meeting ended in a tie.

Rochester came out strong and the Albert Lea defense was kept busy. Morgan Stadheim, Elizabeth Winkels, Sophie Miller, and Ellie Johnson turned back many attacks from a confident Rochester team, which soon scored a goal from a loose ball in front of the net. Albert Lea’s offense was flat and couldn’t mount an effective attack.

Shortly into the second half, Albert Lea’s Abbey Arends finally sent a deflected shot back into the net to tie it, and it sent a shock wave across the field. Mariah Maras followed with a goal off a long shot from midfield. Several minutes later, Miller hit another long shot to put Albert Lea up for good 3-1.

Rochester never recovered. Something happened in this game that set the tone for the rest of the tournament, according to coach Dwaine Winkels.

“Albert Lea fought back from behind against an excellent opponent and won,&uot; said Winkels. &uot;It was a huge confidence boost for us.&uot;

Prior Lake was the No. 2 seed in the district and Albert Lea’s opponent Saturday afternoon. The confidence from the previous game carried over.

The locals were relaxed and

ready to play.

Arends started the scoring with a goal off a deflected corner kick several minutes into the game and the locals never looked back. Passingham picked up a deflected shot off the keeper and put it into the net. Arends got her second goal of the game on

an unassisted breakaway. Passingham followed with her second goal off a pass from Arends. Albert Lea led 4-0 at halftime.

The second half started with Maras scoring on a long shot from midfield. Prior Lake got a late goal to make the final 5-1.

&uot;The team played one of its best games of the season,&uot; said coach Jeff Miller.

The three wins put Albert Lea into the championship game against Lakeville Sunday morning. Heavy rain greeted the teams as they arrived. The Albert Lea girls enjoyed their pre-game warm ups in the rain while Lakeville stayed under cover. Albert Lea made sure Lakeville didn’t have any

fun once the game began.

Less than two minutes into it, Arends sent a perfect crossing pass to Jenna Bowman and Bowman scored. Two minutes later Bowman intercepted a

goal kick and sent it into the net for a score. Sophie Miller added a third goal on an unassisted long shot from midfield and Albert Lea led 3-0 after less than six minutes into the game. Lakeville was shell-shocked and reeling.

The scoring continued when Arends passed another crossing shot to Bowman and Bowman scored her third goal of the first period. It was followed by a clearing pass from Miller to Passingham down the right side, with Passingham scoring on the breakaway. The half ended shortly after Maras tallied Albert Lea’s sixth goal of the first half off a corner kick.

Stephanie Ferguson played superbly at center midfield and set up several of the scoring opportunities.

Lakeville would get a goal as time expired to make the final 6-1.

Sage Fitzgerald-Prihoda and Passingham split keeper duties throughout the tournament and only allowed four goals in four games.

&uot;This team took second place in the state Classic III division as 11-year-olds last year,&uot; said Coach Winkels. &uot;This year they moved up to Classic II and were hoping to be competitive and have surpassed everyone’s expectations. Several weeks ago they really came together as a team and began playing at whole new level. Since that

time they defeated several previously undefeated teams, knocked off two league leaders, won the Hudson tournament, and now walked away with the

South District Tournament championship. On July 25 they travel to Blaine as one of the 10 best U-12 C2 teams in the state and play for a chance at a state championship.&uot;