FAIRMONT - Emily Gaspar may have delivered the game-winning goal during Tuesday night's soccer match at Kot Soccer Complex, but Karla Krmpotich engineered the play's blueprint.
Krmpotich drove the left endline before threading a perfect centering pass to Gaspar, who drilled the ball into the right corner of the net to propel the Mankato Loyola Crusaders to a 2-1 non-league victory over the Fairmont Area Cardinals.
"That was a disappointing result," Fairmont Area head coach Matt Nielsen said in reference to Gaspar's tiebreaking goal with 29 seconds remaining in regulation. "I counted 12 breakaways tonight and we just couldn't finish them."
ACCELERATION — Fairmont Area’s Lexi Johnson (front) outraces a Mankato Loyola defender upfield during soccer action Tuesday in Fairmont. Photo by Leanna Becker
Sophomore midfielder Hayley Jones, however, did cash in one of the Cardinals' double-figure offensive opportunities to knot the score at 1-all with 12:37 left in the second 40-minute half.
Jones settled the ball in the backfield before making a left-side rush upfield, sprinting past the Loyola midfielders and defenders. Ironically, Jones released a left-to-right grass-hugging shot that skidded between Crusader goalkeeper Sarah Peller's legs for the equalizer.
Peller's aggressive netminding style near the edges of the box, combined with a dozen offsides infractions whistled on Fairmont Area, kept the hometown lineup from reaching the scoreboard early and often.
Peller, however, did halt a pair of striker Sierra Schultz's breakaway drives during the initial minutes of the first and second halves to maintain a shutout until Jones' goal.
Schultz unleashed a hooking blast off the run near the point only to watch as Peller dove to her right to swat the shot out of harm's way.
Schultz opened the second half by outracing the Loyola defenders to a long lead pass by Katie Nicoson and rushed the left wing only to have Peller made a hard sliding tackle on the ball to deny access to the net.
Nicoson nearly put the Cardinals in the driver's seat with less than 2 minutes remaining in the second half, but her angled shot skidded just inches wide of the right post.
Midfielder Aunikah Bastian staked the Crusaders to a 1-0 margin by intercepting an errant clearing pass in the Cardinals' defensive zone before hammering home a right-to-left goal at the 28:03 juncture of the first half.
Peller pocketed 10 saves to net the win for Loyola, while Fairmont Area goalkeeper Jess Koskovich turned away seven of the visitors' nine shots on goal.
Fairmont (3-6-2, 0-3 South Central) plays host to Waseca at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont.
Mankato Loyola (2-7) travels to the Martin Luther College soccer fields on Saturday for a 1 p.m. non-league game against New Ulm.
L - Aunikah Bastian (unassisted), 28:03.
FA - Hayley Jones (unassisted), 12:37.
L - Emily Gaspar (Karla Krmpotich), 0:29.
Saves: Jess Koskovich (FA) 2-5-7; Sarah Peller (L) 3-7-10.
Shots on goal: Fairmont Area 3-8-11; Loyola 3-6-9.