ALBERT LEA — The Faribault girls soccer team gave its best effort in the worst conditions.
Not rain, wind chills below freezing nor the Albert Lea defense could stop Mercedes Huerta from scoring twice in Faribault’s 2-0 win Wednesday in the first round of the Section 2A playoffs.
“This was so hard fought and so deserved,” said Faribault coach Maddie Justin. “This team has fought really hard all season and just proved that they could finish. It feels really good. A lot of determination.”
The freshman Huerta scored her first goal with 21 minutes, 7 second remaining in the first half, beating the goalie on a grounder to the right side of the net.
The goal was important as Faribault had the strong wind at its back in the first half.
While Justin thought Faribault possessed the ball more Wednesday than in the first meeting with Albert Lea, the Tigers still won the possession battle on the night.
Fortunately for the Falcons, they had junior Olivia Williamson in net. She helped the defense to its first shutout of the season.
Justin credited Williamson’s ability to snuff out the Tigers’ through balls. Sophomore Najaira Solis was successful in her first game playing center midfield and senior Marta Schonebaum “really held the defense together back there” noted Justin.
That defense helped Faribault get to halftime up 1-0.
The Tigers had a couple good looks in the opening 10 minutes of the second half including one on an offsides call.
They continued to pile up shots on goal and came close to tying it up when Williamson lunged for the ball that got away from her off a deflection with 10:15 left in the game.
“We stood by with just one goal. That’s really unsettling, especially for a section game,” Justin said. “It was definitely nervous at times.”
The Falcons were able to push the ball up field more often in the waning minutes. They drew a penalty kick with 1:23 remaining. Huerta chose the left center of the net to beat the goalie for the second time on the night.
Faribault (3-12-2) was the last-seeded team out of 14 teams in the section taking on No. 11 Albert Lea (7-7-2). The two teams tied in the first meeting 2-2 Sept. 6 in Faribault
Faribault faces a quick turnaround to play No. 6 Northfield (9-4-2) 5 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Field.
The Raiders won 3-0 in the regular season finale Oct. 4 in Faribault. The game was played after playoff seeding was determined.
“It’ll be exciting. It was after seeding, so that probably took some pressure off of it, but also, it was 1-0 at halftime,” Justin said. “We can come out strong for sure. I probably sat out people in the second half of that game that I will probably play in sections so it could look a lot different tonight than it did last week.”
Faribault 2, Albert Lea 0
F — 1 1
A — 0 0