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Albert Lea advances past Winona Cotter

Porfirio Garcia of Albert Lea dribbles the ball down the center of the field before scoring the first goal of the game Tuesday durning the first round of the Section 1A tournament against Winona Cotter at Jim Gustafson Field. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Porfirio Garcia of Albert Lea dribbles the ball down the center of the field before scoring the first goal of the game Tuesday during the first round of the Section 1A tournament against Winona Cotter at Jim Gustafson Field. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

A first-half goal by Pofirio Garcia gave the Albert Lea boys’ soccer team its first lead of the game and propelled the Tigers to to the Section 1A quarterfinals.

“Once we broke through, the energy just skyrocketed,” said Albert Lea coach Joe Squires. “This team really thrives when it’s having fun. You could see that ten-fold in the second half.”

The Tigers added two more goals in the second half and shut out Winona Cotter 3-0 Tuesday in the first round of the Section 1A tournament at Jim Gustafson Field.

Albert Lea (5-10-1 overall) was the No. 6 seed, and Winona Cotter (5-7-3 overall) was the No. 11 seed.

The Tigers’ opening score was set up with a pass from Austin Dulitz in the left corner to Alejandro Garcia just outside the top of the box. From there, the Garcias took over.

“I told him (Alejandro) to do a little give-and-go,” said Porfirio. “He rarely does that, but I was ready for it and just tapped it in.”

The Ramblers made a run at the net with two seconds left in the first half, but Albert Lea goalie Foster Otten made one of his three saves on the night to preserve the lead. The Tigers outshot Winona Cotter 26-3.

“We played very strong defensively,” Squires said. “There were only one or two decent looks.”

In the second half, Albert Lea extended its lead with a goal by Lay Wah on a pass from Colton Mowers.

“(Colton) put the ball across the face of the net, and Lay just tapped it in,” Squires said.

The Tigers’ final goal was scored with 12:35 left in the game. Schaffer Overgaard’s shot nailed the crossbar with a ding and bounced straight down. Austin Dulitz charged the net and cleaned it up.

“They were doing a good job of following their shots,” Squires said.

Next, Albert Lea will get a rematch at Kasson-Mantorville in the Section quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Thursday.

The two teams met in the season opener and the KoMets won 4-0 on Aug. 21. The Tigers never lost by more than three goals the rest of the season.

No. 3-seed Kasson-Mantorville (14-2 overall) is coming off a 3-0 home win over No. 14-seed Lake City (2-14 overall), which snapped a two-game losing streak. The KoMets won their first 14 games and lost 1-0 in overtime at Rochester Lourdes — the No. 1 seed in the section — and by the same score in overtime at No. 2-seed Austin in the regular-season finale.

The only game Albert Lea played on turf this year was at Kasson-Mantorville, Squires said. Winona and Rochester Mayo also play on an artificial surface, but the Tigers hosted both teams.

Squires applauded Albert Lea’s groundskeeping crew for keeping Jim Gustafson Field in as good of condition as possible. However, the rain last Thursday and football game on Friday took its toll.

“If we could pass the ball on this, we can pass at Kasson even better,” he said.