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Girls soccer: Tigers reach section finals

Farmington's Kelli Elmer charges toward a Rochester Mayo defender during last Tuesday's opening-round tournament game at Tiger Stadium.

It's already been a season of firsts for the Farmington girls soccer team.

The Tigers won a share of their first-ever Missota Conference championship. Then they hosted, and won, the program's first-ever section tournament home game. Then, to advance to their first-ever state tournament, the Tigers had to be the first Class 2A team to defeat Lakeville North this season.

The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, brought a 15-1-2 record into Tuesday's Section 1AA finals. They have won 14 games via shutout so far this season, including a 3-0 win over the Tigers in early September. Their only loss came three weeks ago against second-ranked (Class 1A) Blake.

"North will be the toughest test we faced this year. They are on a mission to win a state tourney and they have the talent to do it," Farmington coach Rob Carpentier said. "We have to be as tight in the back of the defense as we've been in any game this year. Plus, we have to find a way to crack their defense.... Our girls are very excited by the opportunity."

While the Panthers were dismantling their opponents by a combined score of 9-0 in advancing to the finals, the Tigers were scratching and clawing their way through two tightly-contested playoff games.

In last Thursday's Section 1AA opener, the Tigers had to overcome a frustrating first half where they outshot Rochester Mayo 14-1, but couldn't put a dent in the scoreboard at a chilly Tiger Stadium.

Naomi Wood finally gave the home fans something to cheer about when she found the net from 10 yards out on a rebound after a Kelli Elmer header. About 10 minutes later, Hannah Miller made it 2-0 with a 25-yard boot on a pass from Kenya Macias.

Goalkeeper Ashley Becker and the Tiger defense once again came up big in Saturday's semifinals at Owatonna, shutting out the second-seeded Huskies for over 80 minutes until Izzie Ferm's header in overtime sealed a 1-0 victory.

The win ended Owatonna's 11-game winning streak and avenged a 2-1 loss on the same field three weeks ago.

"The defense was, once again, a wall," said Carpentier, whose team turned in its school-record 11th shutout of the season. "We were so dominant that I felt like they started playing to get to a shootout because they were so under pressure."

Going with the wind, the Tigers outshot the Huskies 15-4 during a scoreless second half. The visitors carried that momentum into overtime, however, and finally broke through on a corner kick.

"We had been working on this play all week. Ferm started her run to the outside and far side of the box. Miller and Syd Eckert had been putting the corners on target all day," Carpentier said. "This one was picture perfect and Ferm powered the header just under the bar. The keeper had no chance. The reaction from the girls was instantaneous and massive, as was our crowd's."

The win improved the Tigers to 12-4-2 overall heading into Tuesday's section final.