The St. Cloud Cathedral girls soccer team didn’t know much about its opponent, Detroit Lakes, going into Tuesday night.
“Zero: Not a thing,” Cathedral coach Clare Dozier said.
But a scouting report wasn’t necessary. The Crusaders played what Dozier called her team’s “best overall game of the season” in a 2-0 win in the Section 8A playoff semifinals at Husky Stadium.
The Crusaders used a crafty goal by Maddie Curtis in the third minute to get on the board, and their defense took care of the rest.
“The possession, the intensity, everything was just well-put together,” Dozier said. “A 2-0 lead can be a blessing and a curse. We didn’t want to change anything, we wanted to keep attacking and playing our game.
“If we change things, it goes to our heads and throws us all off.”
Cathedral controlled the final 77 minutes to improve to 13-4-1 and put the Crusaders one win away from its first trip to the Class A State Tournament since 2005.
The Crusaders haven’t played in a section final since 2006, when Dozier was a senior at Cathedral.
The Crusaders will face Sartell in the section title game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Husky Stadium. The Sabres advanced with a 3-2 victory over Alexandria in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
Curtis collaborated with Annie Johnson on a give-and-go that sprung Curtis into a wide-open chunk of space 15 yards out from the net.
Curtis got the ball back from Johnson and put it past the Lakers goalkeeper.
“I was looking for a give-and-go with Annie and she gave a really good ball back,” Curtis said. “I cut inside on the goalie because she came out. I just tapped it in and it felt awesome.
“I was going for attack. Once I got that ball back and had that girl beat, I was going for goal.”
The Crusaders struck one more time with 15:28 remaining in the first half when Johnson headed the ball into the goal off a Mariah Sperl free kick.
“Annie just ran under it and headed it,” Dozier said. “That was pure effort. She just barreled into it. It was a great header.”
Dozier said Sperl, a center defensive back, had the biggest impact in helping Cathedral protecting the lead, calling her a “shutdown defender.”
Cathedral finished the first half up to goals despite running into the wind.
With the wind in the opposition’s face after halftime and a heavier rain fall pouring down, protecting the two-goal lead was a little easier for the Crusaders.
“I think it helped us,” Curtis said. “We scored our first two goals with the wind going against so it didn’t make the biggest difference for us attacking, but it helped us on defense and sending the long balls.”
The Crusaders lost 3-2 to Sartell on Sept. 14.
“Both Sartell and Alexandria are really good,” Dozier said before the Alexandria/Sartell game completed.
“They’re really intense, they’re really physical and well-put together. Either way, it will be a tough game.”