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Gallery: Late run lifts Tigers past Bluejays

Albert Lea players celebrate a goal scored by Megan Kortan on a penalty kick late in the second half Thursday in the Section 2A quarterfinals at Jim Gustafson Field. From left are Haley Lamping, Holly Wichmann, Kortan and Claire Sherman. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea players celebrate a goal scored by Megan Kortan on a penalty kick late in the second half Thursday in the Section 2A quarterfinals at Jim Gustafson Field. From left are Haley Lamping, Holly Wichmann, Kortan and Claire Sherman. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

After more than an hour of scoreless play, the Albert Lea girls’ soccer team needed a spark. It came off the bench from a 10th-grade reserve forward.

With 13:44 left in the game, Haley Lamping broke the stalemate to give the No. 1-seed Tigers their first lead.

“She came in with a lot of energy and was really enthusiastic,” said Albert Lea coach Rick Barnhill. “She was ready for the big moment. She got her chance, and she finished it off.”

The ball was deflected to the left side of the goal, and Lamping found the net from about eight yards out to spur the Tigers to a 2-0 win Thursday in the Section 2A quarterfinals at Jim Gustafson Field.

“You’ve just got to be there to pick up the garbage,” said Lamping. “The more aggressive you are, the better you play.”

About eight minutes later, Megan Kortan gave the Tigers some breathing room by scoring on a penalty kick.

“We got some pressure, and it was like a dam breaking at the end,” Barnhill said. “We talked at halftime that the first team that scored would be in the driver’s seat.”

Although the Tigers possessed the ball in Waseca’s zone for 48 of 80 minutes, the Bluejays had some good looks at the net in the first half. However, Kathryn Flaherty provided an iron curtain between the posts with seven saves.

“A lot of credit goes to Kathryn,” Barnhill said. “She saved us on a couple of shots. She parried one, made another big save and didn’t give up any rebounds.”

Waseca was dangerously close to scoring with 13 minutes left in the first half, but a shot clanged off the crossbar and was cleared by Albert Lea’s defense. The Bluejays continued to threaten with the help of a larger, more physical roster, so Barnhill shuffled his lineup at halftime.

“The biggest adjustment I made was to move Holly Wichmann up to the front line,” he said. “Holly has a little more physical strength. She knows what its like to be in big games. Right now, I turn to people who have been in this situation before.”

Last year, the Tigers were in a similar position. They played a physical and previously undefeated Waseca team on the road in the section semifinals and won 3-0.

Waseca finished with a 7-7-3 overall record.

Next, Albert Lea (10-3-2 overall) will play No. 4-seed Mankato West (10-5-3 overall). The Scarlets are coming off of a 3-1 home win Thursday against No. 5-seed New Prague.

During the regular season, Albert Lea beat the Scarlets 2-1 on Sept. 23 at home.

Of the 11 games that have been played in the 15-team bracket, only two upsets have occurred. The only upset in the first round was No. 9-seed Waseca’s 2-1 overtime win at Mankato East. The upset in the quarterfinals was a 3-1 win by No. 6-seed Mankato Loyola over No. 3-seed Fairmont.