FAIRMONT - Fairmont Area and Mankato East matched one another rush-for-rush and shot-for-shot during Friday night's down-to-the-wire Section 2A soccer championship game in Fairmont.
With Cardinal senior goalkeeper Matt Tennyson and Cougar sophomore netminder Nick Olson exchanging sure-handed save after save, the state-qualifying match appeared destined for overtime and maybe a shootout.
Forward Ahmed Sugulle, however, changed that outlook with one kick.
USING HIS HEAD — Fairmont Area forward Brock Johnson (22) passes the soccer ball forward via a header during the Section 2A championship game on Friday night at Kot Soccer Complex in Fairmont. Mankato East’s Ashraf Osman (8) watches the action. Photo Leanna Becker
Sugulle's left-footed chip from near the left end line off Nathan Dreyer's crossing pass with 3:47 remaining in regulation propelled No. 3-seeded Mankato East to a 1-0 triumph over No. 1-seeded Fairmont Area.
The Cougars (10-8-2) advance to the Class A state tournament's quarterfinals for the second time in the past three years.
Mankato East will await today's seeding meeting to determine its first-round state opponent, in addition to the quarterfinal's location, time and day.
Fairmont Area ended its season with a 15-4 overall record and the program's first-ever sectional runner-up trophy.
"I thought we outplayed them (the Cougars) during the second half," said Cardinal head coach Jeff Kot, whose lineup capitalized on a strong wind behind it to outshoot East by an 8-4 margin during the final 40 minutes. "We hit a couple of pipes, but just couldn't get one (shot) to go in."
In addition to Fairmont Area defender Joe Washa's redirected header drawing iron during the first six minutes of the second half, Mankato East's Olson utilized both of his padded gloves to keep the high-scoring forward Grant Becker off of the scoreboard.
After Lucas Miles laced a low liner that Olson corraled with 20:51 left in the second half, Becker drove the heart of the field before unleashing a laser that the Cougar netminder batted away with both mitts at 17:20.
Despite a red card and player ejection leaving the Cardinals shorthanded with 14:15 left in regulation, Tennyson and Fairmont Area's defense proved worthy of the challenge.
Tennyson denied forward Mohamud Ahmed's left-wing liner before sophomore defender Derek Hunwardsen swept away a point drive by Albert Podshivaylov with less than 8 minutes to go.
"Matt (Tennyson) played a super game tonight. He made some great saves, while Derek did a nice job at the stopper spot in keeping East from getting some shots off," said Kot.
Podshivaylov, however, proved a catalyst behind the game's only goal. The East senior midfielder worked the right wing before launching a pass that ricocheted off players in the box before Dreyer temporarily settled the ball and fed Sugulle for the goal.
"I even lost track of who kicked it originally after it bounced off of a couple of players and finally got to Ahmed (Sugulle)," said Cougar head coach Jerrad Aspelund.
Sugulle and Podshivaylov also played key roles behind sectional semifinal shootout with Mankato West on Tuesday. Both Sugulle and Podshivaylov netted goals to help pace the Cougars' 3-1 edge in the shootout after the two teams played to a 1-all tie in regulation.
Olson made a dozen saves to earn the shutout for East, while Tennyson closed out his stellar prep career by recording 17 saves.
Mankato East 0-1-1
Fairmont Area 0-0-0
ME - Ahmed Sugulle (Nathan Dreyer), 3:47.
Shots on goal: Mankato East 13-5-18; Fairmont Area 4-8-12.
Saves: Matt Tennyson (FA) 13-4-17; Nick Olson (ME) 4-8-12.