FAIRMONT - After waiting through a first-round bye, the No. 1-seeded Fairmont Area Cardinals sailed past Mankato Loyola Crusaders, 7-0, in the Section 2A boys soccer quarterfinals on Friday at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont.
The Cardinals (14-3) advance to play host to the No. 5-seeded St. Peter Saints (9-3) in a 7 p.m. sectional semifinal on Tuesday. The Saints and the Cardinals split meetings during the regular season, with the Saints winning most recently, 1-0 on Oct. 4 in St. Peter.
St. Peter advanced by defeating the No. 4-seeded Waseca, 2-1, in overtime on Friday in Waseca.
SCORING?MACHINE — Fairmont Area forward Grant Becker powers the ball into the Mankato Loyola end during Section 2A quarterfinal soccer action Friday at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont. The Cardinals’ Evan Ward adds support by trailing the action. Photo Leanna Becker
"The boys are seeing turf in their dreams," said Fairmont Area head coach Jeff Kot. "They are going to get some touches (today) inside to get some touches and a feel for turf."
The Cardinals were fighting the wind and the Crusaders defenders early in the Friday's playoff game, but eventually got their explosive offensive going. Fairmont Area managed to catch a break after a Mankato Loyola handball in the goalie box by defender Alex Piementel gave the Cardinals a penalty kick.
Cardinal senior Grant Becker stepped up to take the kick, and at 26 minutes and 37 seconds in the first half gave Fairmont Area the 1-0 lead.
Fairmont Area senior Lucas Miles added to the lead at 8:33 in the first half. Miles handled the ball and backed down the Crusaders' defender before turning around and sinking the shot into the net from the top of the goalie box to make it 2-0.
Brock Johnson had a chance to score for the Cardinals late in the first half with a shot from the left side, but sent the shot caught in the wind and sailed over the net.
"We did a good job of using the whole field. Since we have wider fields, we wanted to spread things out and use our forwards and we were able to do that," said Kot.
Becker added his second goal of the night on a direct-kick play at 33:30 in the second half. The Cardinals set up their second direct-kick play of the game, and with Joe Washa moving out to the wide right of the Crusaders' wall, Becker was able to slide the kick right under the jumping defender, tucking the goal in the corner of the net perfectly to make it 3-0.
Forty seconds later, a booming kick from Washa with the wind at his back, gave Becker just the advantage he needed to outrun the Crusader defender and kick a left-footed shot across the middle and into the right side of the Mankato Loyola goal to make it 4-0.
"We did exactly what we wanted to do tonight. Our goal was to be able to score enough to hopefully get everyone in to the game, and we did that," said Kot. "I think Grant and Luke took that challenge on themselves and made sure we were able to do that."
Becker's fourth and final goal of the game came with some fancy footwork, putting Crusaders' goalie Malik Baxter back on his heels and sending it home for a 5-0 lead.
Miles also added his second goal in the game for the Cardinals, blasting a 30-yard score from the middle of the field just inside the pipe to make it 6-0 with 29:39 left in the game.
The Crusaders nearly spoiled birthday boy Matt Tennyson's shutout when Luke VanBlarcom tried to pound a shot in on the right side of the net. Tennyson made a leaping save to maintain the shutout throughout the game.
Sophomore Peter Nielsen recorded the final goal of the game for Fairmont Area. Defender Robert Hamp sent a shot rolling towards the net, and after bouncing off a Crusaders' defensemen, Nielsen snuck the shot in throw a crowd to make it 7-0.
Baxter made eight saves for Loyola, while Tennyson made eight saves for Fairmont Area.
Loyola 0 0 - 0
Fairmont 2 5 - 7
FA - Grant Becker (penalty kick), 26:37.
FA - Lucas Miles (unassisted), 8:33.
FA - Becker (direct kick), 33:30.
FA - Becker (Joe Washa), 32:50.
FA - Miles (unassisted), 26:07.
FA - Peter Nielsen (Robert Hamp), 5:09.
Saves: Matt Tennyson (FA) 8; Malik Baxter (ML) 8.
Shots on goal: Fairmont Area 17; Mankato Loyola 10.