It was a good day for Cardinal pride Thursday. Willmar Cardinal athlete teams racked up several dramatic wins.
The Cardinal boys soccer team created a cardiac moment by scoring a tying goal with five seconds remaining versus the Worthington Trojans, playing through two scoreless overtimes and then winning on a final blocked shot in a shootout. The Cards now advance to the Class AA state boys soccer semifinals Wednesday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
And the Cardinal cross country teams — boys and girls — ran their races of the season and both captured their respective Section 8AA titles to advance to the Class AA state cross country meets on Nov. 6 at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
It was a good day to be a Willmar Cardinal fan — truly a #CardinalPride day!
All three teams faced tough opponents in Thursday's competition.
The boys' soccer team (now 18-0-2) was the No. 4 seed in the boys state tournament, but they faced the No. 5-seeded Worthington team, which was undefeated. Not only did the opposing team have a perfect record going into the game, but the Trojans came into the game as the top-scoring boys team in the state, averaging 6.5 goals per game. This season, the Trojans had outscored their opponents 123-5. The Worthington team were highlighted in a metro newspaper's sports column as a successful diverse team building community pride.
The Trojan domination, however, did not faze the Cardinals. The coaching staff planned a conservative approach to slow down the Trojans and the Cardinal team implemented it to perfection. While the Trojans scored a go-ahead goal at the 74th minute, the Cards did not give up.
Remembering their come-from-behind win in the Section 6AA championship, the Cards did not quit.
With 10 seconds remaining and still trailing by a goal, the Cardinals focused on the next play. Anthony Reyes Jimenez lined up a free-kick toward a crowd in front of the net and Abdullahi Mohamud headed it in for the tying goal. After two scoreless overtime periods, the Cards prevailed for a dramatic win on penalty kicks and a final blocked shot by goalie Andrew Ziebarth. It was a shame this game had to have a losing team.
The cross country teams turned in strong performances as well Thursday in the Section 8AA meets.
The boys' team was ranked statewide but faced the top-ranked Alexandria Cardinal team and a good Pequot Lakes Patriots team. The girls' team was ranked fifth in the state but faced the second-ranked Alexandria, the fourth-ranked Rocori Spartans and a good Pequot Lakes team, all strong Section 8AA teams.
The Cardinal boys won the section with 71 points, followed by Pequot Lakes qualifying for state with 90 points and Alexandria missing state with a third-place total of 95. Willmar's ninth-grader Sully Anez won the meet with a time of 16:23:08 on the 5-kilometer course, while Colin O'Farrell finished third in 16:56.80.
Not to be outdone, the Cardinal girls ran a strong team performance to take the section championship with 45 points, edging Alexandria's second-place finish with 55 points and Rocori's third-place score of 62. The Cardinals' Lauren Eilers finished second with 18:40.30 and Erin Eilers ran sixth with 19:11.80.
Willmar athletes continued in action at home this week with the Cardinal volleyball team playing the Mankato West Scarlets in Section 2AAA action Friday and the Cardinal football team playing the Faribault Falcons Saturday.
All in all, it has been a good week for Willmar athletics competing and bringing home success to the community. #GoCards.
This Tribune Opinion editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune Editorial Board consisting of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.