Defending the goal has been a consistent theme for the Coon Rapids girls’ soccer team all season.
The Section 7AA top-seeded Cardinals posted its ninth shutout of the season and third over the last four games in a 1-0 penalty shootout win (3-1 shootout) against No. 4 seed St. Francis Saturday afternoon in Coon Rapids.
The Cardinals had allowed two goals over nine games going into Tuesday’s section final against No. 2 seed Andover.
Coon Rapids downed the neighboring rivals to the north 4-3 Sept. 7. Four goals tied a season-high for goals scored and three goals conceded was a season worst for the team.
“We seem to be hitting pretty hard and strong in the defensive third of the field right now,” Coach Jeff DeJoy said of the unit that is plus-12 in goal differential (13 goals against in 18 games). Coon Rapids starting defense includes sophomore Emily Kos with seniors Shawna Langren and Bethany Hanson.
Scoring for Coon Rapids in the shootout were sophomores Carley Anderson and Taylor Nyland and senior McKenzie Balego. Senior goalie Sam Lefaive played all 100 minutes and made three penalty saves on the Saints in the shootout.
DeJoy rotated between Lefaive and classmate Robin Lindemann all season, but Lindemann wasn’t at the game to get her typical 40 minutes in goal. Lefaive stopped all four shots on goal.
Coming into the game, DeJoy said the goal for his defense was to contain Saints senior forward Makenna Sullivan, who came into the game with more shots on goal than the entire Cardinals roster.
Senior defender Alexa Turner drew the responsibility to shadow the Saints’ best scorer. “Her goal was to be that annoying piece of sand in someone’s shoe,” DeJoy said as the move paid off. “I don’t think she had a shot all game.”
On the opposite end of the field, Coon Rapids had a goal waved off for a foul and generated a couple other scoring chances.
Coon Rapids opened the season with a 1-0 win over St. Francis on the same field when Allie Erickson, the Cardinals’ leading scorer (23 points, nine goals), collected the lone goal on four shots. Lefaive stopped all three shots she faced, but Lindemann did not face one shot in 40 minutes of action.
Coon Rapids needed an overtime goal by senior forward Neira Begic to beat No. 8 Duluth East, 1-0 in the opening round of the section Oct. 10. Begic collected a low-driving shot from Erickson into a crowd inside the Greyhounds penalty area in the 88th minute (eight minutes into overtime) and buried a left-footed shot into the back of the net.
“They’ve had our number the last few times and it was one of those things where it didn’t matter what seed or what records were, Duluth East is always a tough match up for us, so it was nice to beat them,” said DeJoy, who is looking for his fifth state tournament appearance with the Cardinals.
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