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Girls soccer: Tigers bid to upset North comes up short

Farmington sophomore Destiny Schmitz steps up to try to cut off a pass during the first half of last Tuesday's 2-0 loss to Lakeville North in the Section 1AA finals. The Tigers lost, 2-0.

The Farmington girls soccer team went into its first Section 1AA title game last Tuesday night at Lakeville North knowing it would need to play a near-perfect game to advance.

That didn't happen, but head coach Rob Carpentier was pleased to see his scrappy Tigers make the top-ranked (Class 2A) Panthers sweat a little bit as they punched another ticket to the Class 2A State Tournament with a 2-0 victory, their 15th shutout in 19 games this season.

"I am happy we brought a great effort and didn't get intimidated by the situation. I would like to have seen us hold possession a bit better and our passing was a bit off, but I don't know that it would have changed the outcome," Carpentier said. "(Lakeville North) plays well as a unit, has good team speed, a great deal of individual skill and the best forward tandem in the state. If they lose (at state) it's because they didn't show up to play."

The Panthers held possession most of the first half, but were turned away on numerous scoring opportunities thanks to a relentless Tiger defense and the goalkeeping of Ashley Becker. Carpentier said his team made some key adjustments based on what he learned in a 3-0 non-conference loss to the Panthers on Sept. 8.

"They were so much better than the first time we played them. We knew they would have a lot of possession, so our goal was to close out their shooters in the box, force them wide, force their shots to come from the outside and limit their crosses," he said. "We did better limiting their shots to ones outside the box, but they had a lot of dangerous crosses."

After 53-plus minutes of scoreless soccer, the Panthers finally broke through on one of those crosses when Kendall Naatjes headed in a corner kick at 13:46 of the second half.

"No one really made a mistake. They just finally cashed in on a cross," Carpentier said. "They are very dangerous on those. Honestly, I really thought it was just a matter of time before they scored unless we started holding possession at midfield."

The Tigers came within inches of tying the game on a throw-in late in the second half, but North stopped the ball just short of the goal line and went the length of the field to set up a game-clinching goal by All-State forward Simone Kolander.

The loss ended a memorable season for the Tigers. They won a program-best 12 games, won a share of their first Missota Conference title and won two section games via shutout to push their shutout total to 11.

"In so many ways this was the best time I've ever had the honor of coaching," Carpentier said. "This group was so very easy to coach. It was easily my most satisfying year, and that's saying something considering the teams and students I've coached before this one."

The team was led by a group of eight seniors: Sydney Eckert, Alex Frost, Leah Zak, Naomi Wood, Tina Oppedisano, Emily Pulido, Kaylie Sorenson and Callie Kittleson.

"I think the fact that epitomizes them as a group is that regardless of playing time or things going on off the field, this was a team in the truest sense of the word," Carpentier said. "They had great attitudes each and every day and great leadership for our younger kids to emulate. I will miss them tremendously."