By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
NORTH MANKATO — A pattern is emerging for the St. Peter girls soccer team, and the Saints hope it continues.
On Tuesday, St. Peter scored a second-half goal to take a 2-1 lead and went into a defensive shell to earn a Section 2A semifinal victory over Mankato East.
On Thursday, the Saints took on Mankato West for the 2A title and again scored a second-half goal for a 2-1 lead. St. Peter reverted to the same defensive shell and held on for the 2-1 triumph to earn its third straight trip to the state tournament. The Saints also beat West 2-1 in last year’s section championship match.
“Our defense was just fantastic again today,” St. Peter head coach Karl Larson said. “We got the lead, we dropped six girls back and they did the job back there. I can’t say enough about how well they played.
The defenders included sophomore Tori Kmett, junior Sara Osborne, sophomore Aricka O’Gorman and freshman Ella Wiebusch along the back wall. Sophomores Sally Morrow and Halla Dontje Lindell also dropped back to help out, as did sophomore midfielder Marta Springer on occasion.
The defenders allowed West few close-in shots and cut off most of the Scarlets’ attempted through-passes, spreading the ball out to their wings whenever possible.
St. Peter’s defense is not a newfound attribute. The Saints have won 11 straight section games dating back to 2010 and have allowed just five goals over that span.
West got on the board first on Thursday when Breeta Oxnard found the net on a shot past senior keeper Maria Siebels at the 12:53 mark. Twenty minutes later, St. Peter tied it up when Lind converted a pass from about 12 yards out and beat Katie Lauer to knot the game at 1.
“We knew that they were going to play a very defensive-minded game, and we were ready for it,” West coach Crissy Makela said. “In fact, we talked at halftime about the possibility of them pulling everybody back with the score still tied to see if they could win the game in overtime.”
At 54:54, St. Peter’s Lind scored the decisive goal, picking up a loose ball at the top of the 18 and sending it into the upper-right corner for the 2-1 lead.
“I had the clear shot and I took it,” Lind said. “I was just glad I could help the team win. West is a very good team and we expected it to be a close game.”
Lind’s second goal was all coach Larson needed to see as the Saints packed it in thereafter.
“We knew our challenge was to try to get through their defense,” Makela said. “We pulled McKenna Peters up from defense to get a third attacker right after their goal. Then, with about 10-12 minutes left, we pulled up another defender and went into a 2-5-3 alignment.
“We played well — we just came up short. I know the girls played as hard as the could; they’re just physically and emotionally spent.”
West outshot the Saints 7-5. The Scarlets end their season with a 12-8 record.
St. Peter (14-6-1) finds out after the seeding meeting today when, where and against whom they will play in next week’s state tournament.