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Owatonna breaks streak of frustrating ties, blanks Albert Lea

ALBERT LEA — It’s just one win against a struggling opponent, but it’s a major step in the right direct.

Having been forced to settle for three ties in its first three Big Nine Conference games, the Owatonna boys soccer team put forth “a complete effort” and tallied its first conference victory of the season, 3-0, over Albert Lea on Thursday night.

“It really was a complete effort from beginning to end,” Owatonna coach Bob Waypa said. “We came into this game talking yesterday about how we needed to change a few things, tweak a few things and give ourselves a few better chances going forward and we did.”

The victory was paramount for a number of reasons, none bigger than the fact that it gets the Huskies (2-2-3, 1-0-3) in the win column as it enters a stretch of games against some of the toughest opponents it will see all season, starting with a Big Nine Conference showdown against rival, Northfield, on Saturday at 5 p.m.

The Raiders (5-0, 3-0) come into the game atop the league standings and hold the top position in the unofficial Section 1-AA ladder.

“We have a tough matchup against Northfield on Saturday,” Waypa said. “We are looking forward to the challenge. This was a great game today and everyone is excited and seeing if we can maybe build off of this.”

Against the Tigers, Lane Versteeg netted the only necessary goal when he rocketed a free kick around the defenders and out of the goalie’s grasp in the 18th minute.

Benny Bangs got on the board next when he redirected a shot off the foot of Kaden Nelson before Derek Huxford rounded out the scoring by burying a penalty kick with just eight minutes on the clock.

Owatonna’s rock-solid defense rose to the occasion once again registering its second shutout in three games.

“As a team we are going well defensively,” Waypa said. “I was pleased with the effort tonight, those guys are making very few mistakes.”

After hosting Northfield, Owatonna plays three games next week, at Red Wing (0-4-1) on Tuesday, home against Rochester Mayo (4-3-1) on Thursday and at Eagan (2-4-1) on Saturday, Sept. 21.

Reach sports editor Jon Weisbrod at 444-2375, or follow him on @OPPJonW

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