By Chad Courrier
---- — ST. LOUIS PARK — The way things were going early, Mankato West wasn't getting a lot of scoring chances.
Hannah Fox had got West on the board in the seventh minute on a breakaway, but La Crescent was controlling possession and getting a lot of good scoring chances.
But give West a corner kick, and the dynamic changes.
"We work on that every day in practice," said senior Maddy Burandt, who has been on the receiving end of 15 scoring passes this season from the corner by junior Aisha Abdo. "She's always kicking them at me, and I'm always kicking them in. It's my job to finish."
West, making its first state appearance since 2009, opened up a 3-0 lead in the first and repelled La Crescent's comeback in the second half, claiming a 5-2 victory in the quarterfinals of the Class A girls soccer tournament Thursday. It was the first state victory for the girls program.
"That's probably the best we've played all season," coach Crissy Makela said. "It's fantastic to be the first girls team at West to play at the Dome; it's really an amazing feeling."
It was nearly the first time that West had crossed midfield when Maddy Burandt's pass put Fox on a breakaway. Fox controlled the ball and shot from about 30 yards out, rolling the ball past the goalkeeper and inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.
"I think that first goal got in both team's heads," Fox said. "It gave them more motivation to play, but it also gave us an extra spark."
Before the state tournament, Burandt had set a single-season record with 28 goals, many of which have come on the business end of Abdo's corner kick. That duo hooked up again at 18:20 when Abdo sent a corner out front, and Burandt split the defense with a header for a 2-0 lead.
"I just saw the ball in the air, and I knew I had to go after it and finish," Burandt said.
The next time Abdo got a corner, she hooked the ball, sailing over the goalkeeper and inside the right post to make it 3-0.
"She had been curving them pretty close in warmups," Burandt said. "I'm really happy for her."
La Crescent, the No. 3 seed, cut the lead to 3-1 by halftime, finally cashing one of the many scoring opportunities.
La Crescent pressed even more in the second half, moving an extra attacker into the mix, and it paid off after five minutes, cutting the lead to 3-2.
But three minutes later, West answered. Fox took a shot from 30 yards that the keeper stopped, but the ball popped out, and Burandt was alone at the goal mouth, restoring the two-goal margin.
"There was a sense of relief," Makela said. "But I never felt like there was any doubt. Everybody kept saying `we can do it.' We had confidence and trust in each other."
The fifth goal was the prettiest. West got out on a breakaway. Fox passed to the middle, where Burandt waited for Fox to clear on the right side. The return pass was perfect, and Fox finished at 58:58 for a 5-2 advantage.
La Cresecent had 13 shots on goal, with Katie Lauer making 11 saves and defender Riley Decko making one point-blank stop. McKenna Peters and Sarah Buryska turned away a lot of opportunities at defense.
West (13-6-2) plays in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Monday at Metrodome against Benidle-St. Margaret's or Duluth Denfeld.