Tigers are repeat winners at own invite

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 18, 2006

Like Albert Lea, the Fairmont Cardinals, New Ulm Eagles and Worthington Trojans are small town schools with small town enrollment and a love for the game of soccer.

Fairmont and New Ulm are in their inaugural seasons as a varsity sport.

So it fell to the oldest and most successful program to show them what to expect.

The stadium field was rough after the previous night&8217;s football game and heavy rains.

The turf was wet and loose with a strong south wind making high balls unpredictable.

Injuries have taken their toll this season, forcing Coach Barnhill to reach deep into the reserve and junior varisty ranks to stay competitive.

The last time Fairmont faced Albert Lea, it was a club team that upset Worthington to reach the finals of last year&8217;s invitational.

There would be no such luck this year as the home team trounced them 4-0.

A retooled and much improved varsity team held the locals to a single goal throughout the first half.

It was in the fifth minute, when Leah Walters scored the only goal of the half.

It certainly wasn&8217;t for lack of trying as the Tigers poured in 25 shots in the first half and 26 shots in the second, while only facing seven Fairmont shots all game.

The second half opened fast with Whitney Wilson putting in an unassisted goal in the 45th minute.

Sophie Miller opened up her scoring season with a pair of goals at the 58th and 63rd minute mark &045; the first unassisted and the second with the help of eighth grader Allison Stark.

Worthington had beaten New Ulm in the early game 2-0 for the opportunity to face the Tigers for the trophy.

And the Trojans took every advantage, notching a quick goal at the eight minute mark.

That woke the locals up and from there on, Albert Lea played largely a half field game.

The Tigers would go on to claim the win 5-1.

In the 22nd minute, the Tigers tied up the game on a Whitney Wilson kick on a Stark feed.

Seven minutes later, Wilson put in the game winner on a solo effort.

Albert Lea put 28 of its 45 shots on goal in the first half, but went into half time with only a 2-1 lead.

It only took a minute an a half in the second period for Mariah Maras to put in the insurance goal on a Brittni Lair pass.

Less than three minutes later, Walters headed in a Kendra Olchefske throw in for the fourth Tiger goal.

Beth Niebuhr put a high hard one over the keeper&8217;s head for her first varsity goal and the last score of the game at the 65th minute when Stark dished out an Olchefske throw-in.

It was the second straight year Albert Lea won its own invite.

In the consolation round, the New Ulm Eagles beat Fairmont 3-0.

Albert Lea was well represented on the all-tournament team with Olchefske, Walters, Wilson, Miller and Ellie Johnson all being selected.

&8220;I saw a lot of things to be pleased about,&8221; Tiger head coach Rick Barnhill said, &8220;and a few things that still concern me.

The team is ahead of schedule on attacking, but there still needs to be more focus on finishing.

The scores did not reflect our dominance of play.

&8220;The reserves and the eight play-ups were the real story today.

They were thrown in when the games were 1-0 or 1-1 and asked to step up.

In several situations they were the catalysts out there making things happen.

Beth&8217;s (Niebuhr) goal in the Worthington game was a very well struck ball, Allison Stark had three assists, Millie Haapala made some key tackles and set up several attacks and Maddie Passingham stopped everything when she was in goal.&8221;

The Tigers host Rochester Mayo Tuesday and Faribault for parents&8217; night Thursday.