Andover girls soccer earned its first trip to the state tournament after edging Coon Rapids 1-0 (4-2 in the shoot-out) for the Section 7AA title Oct. 15.
The two teams traded scoring chances throughout 80 minutes of regulation then 20 minutes of sudden death overtime before each chose five players to take penalty shots to determine whose season would continue or end.
Coon Rapids had a goal waved off in the opening half after a hand-ball infraction inside the Huskies penalty box. Nine minutes into the second half, Coon Rapids’ overtime hero from the semifinals, Neira Begic, stayed with the ball at the top of the box. After an initially blocked shot, she curled a shot toward the right post. Andover’s Allie Jenkins made a save with her head, with her heels on the goal line.
“You win them by them and you lose them by them,” Coon Rapids coach Jeff Dejoy said. “It’s never an easy way to do it, but we could play for days. Yeah, it’s tough.”
Andover senior goalie Shelby Fehringer came up huge with point-blank saves or deflections, and that continued into the deciding shoot-out. She correctly dove to the left to stop Kaylie Brooks’ opening shot for the Cardinals after Raquel Thelen converted her chance first to give Andover a 1-0 lead.
Andover’s Karlie Gehrig and Coon Rapids’ Carrie Anderson each hit the crossbar in the second round, and Hayden Becker put Andover ahead with a glancing shot off the glove of the Cardinals goalie. Coon Rapids’ Emily Kos made it 2-1 and Andover’s Joli Daninger rolled a slow shot along the ground to take a 3-1 lead. Taylor Nyland pulled Coon Rapids within one with a strong shot in the right corner, and Andover junior Abby Kucza finished it off with a quickly taken shot that seemed to catch the keeper off guard for the final 4-2 score.
Andover coach Lori Snider praised the work by Fehringer, who transferred from Anoka to Andover after last school year.
“We have a great goalkeeper. We were certain she would make at least one save, and our kids, for the most part, don’t miss in a shoot-out, since this is the first one they’ve had.”
Fehringer said she loves shoot-outs and has never lost a shoot-out.
“I just read the first one and I knew it was good. It felt great,” she said.
Andover worked on penalty shots the week leading up to sections and couldn’t leave practice until they made 10 in a row.
Andover started slow with a 1-5-0 record but since then is 7-2-1 to build some confidence and momentum for a deep run into the postseason.
A steady mist kept the field and ball slick all game.
Snider said her team played more directly because the uncertainty of where the ball was going in favor of a possession-style offense that they typically run.
To combat the uncertain footing, Dejoy felt the key was to get the ball over the top and force Andover to make errors or mistakes.
“We had some good luck against them when it was dry with our speed up top, and today we weren’t as fortunate,” he said.
What impressed the Huskies coach the most was how willing her team was to go after 50/50 balls.
“We were fearless,” she said, one year after losing to Blaine in the section final. “Our seniors weren’t going to let it go and those were the kids in the middle of the field winning those 50/50 balls.”
Coming into the game, Snider said the team was excited to be back in the same spot last year with a chance to break through to state.
“This year we can finally say we’re going to state,” Thelen said after playing a role in 32 of the team’s 36 goals this season. “I wanted to do as much as I could and take as many shots as possible.”
Coon Rapids defense has been strong all season, generating nine shutouts and five of the past seven games.
“It’s been a strength of our team from Day 1 and we built around that,” he said. “We knew the defense would give us a shot every game and didn’t have any breakdowns.”
Coon Rapids won the previous meeting this season, a 4-3 win with goals from Allie Erickson and Carrie Anderson. Each had two goals for the Cardinals in the Sept. 7 game. Erickson also had an assist.
The top-seeded Cardinals came into the section final winning six of its last seven games and posted a 7-1-2 record since Sept. 21.
Jason Olson is at