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PK agony

ST. CLOUD -- A record-breaking season ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Willmar boys soccer team Wednesday night. Northfield went a perfect 4-for-4 in a penalty kick situation and goalie Cristian Fuentas-Rivera made two critical stops to lif...

Willmar's Mohamed Aden, left, kicks a ball away from Northfield's Max Felland in the first half of a Class A boys soccer state tournament game Wednesday. The Cardinals fell 2-1. Clay Cunningham / Tribune
Willmar's Mohamed Aden, left, kicks a ball away from Northfield's Max Felland in the first half of a Class A boys soccer state tournament game Wednesday. The Cardinals fell 2-1. Clay Cunningham / Tribune

ST. CLOUD - A record-breaking season ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Willmar boys soccer team Wednesday night.

Northfield went a perfect 4-for-4 in a penalty kick situation and goalie Cristian Fuentas-Rivera made two critical stops to lift the Raiders to a 2-1 win over the Cardinals in the quarterfinals of the Class A state tournament at St. Cloud State.

A Northfield defense that had allowed just 15 goals coming in stymied the high-powered Willmar offense for most of the night and, for awhile, it looked as if a first-half goal by Jack Fox would be the only scoring the Raiders would need.

But fresh off a hat trick in last week's section title game, Fernando Zavala again gave the Cardinal offense life, squeaking a shot in from a tight angle along the left side of the goal, tying the game with just over 10 minutes to play.

Willmar had a pair of golden scoring opportunities in the closing moments of the second overtime period but were unable to convert. One shot went wide while another was blocked by Fuentas-Rivera, who laid out to keep the contest tied.

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After being stonewalled by Willmar goalie Manny Obregon most of the night, the Northfield offense found its rhythm when the game went to penalty kicks as the first four shooters found the back of the net.

The scoring was enough for Fuentas-Rivera, who first denied Abdihakim Abdi, then made a diving stop on Jesus Nevarez, ending the game and Willmar's season.

For the second week in a row, Cardinal players were in tears following a postseason game, but the emotions were clearly on the opposite end of the spectrum this time.

But while Willmar head coach Jeff Winter admitted the loss would be a tough pill to swallow, he said it would be easier to do so knowing he got maximum effort from everyone.

"I wanted so badly for the guys to go play in (U.S. Bank Stadium)," he said. "But they played their hearts out. I don't think any of them have anything left to give."

The loss also ends one of the most fruitful eras of boys soccer Willmar has ever seen, as the Cardinals are forced to part with eight seniors and a few others who have used the last of their eligibility.

Though Winter knows this group will be difficult to replace, he credits them for laying a foundation he thinks will benefit the program for years to come.

"We're going to be talking about this season for decades," he said. "There were so many records set. So many positives that were led by this senior class."

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Northfield 2, Willmar 1

Northfield (15-3-3)................. 1 0 0 0 1- 2

Willmar (18-2-1)................... 0 1 0 0 0- 1

FIRST HALF - (1) Northfield: Jack Fox (Max Felland) 27th minute

SECOND HALF - (2) Fernando Zavala (Abdihakim Abdi) 80th minute

OT 1 - None

OT 2 - None

PKS - Northfield: Matteo Lombardo, Finn Muir, Thomas Gallagher, Bergen Hoff...Willmar: Gerson Maldonado-Garcia, Francis Winter

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SHOTS ON GOAL - Northfield 19, Willmar 11

GOALIE SAVES - Northfield: Cristian Fuentas-Rivera 3... Willmar: Manny Obregon 9

DEFENSIVE SAVES - N/A

CLAY CUNNINGHAM | TRIBUNE
Willmar's Adam Ziebarth looks to make a clear while Northfield's Matteo Lombardo tries to cut him off. Lombardo netted the first of four goals Northfield scored in PKs, which keyed its 2-1 win. Clay Cunningham / Tribune

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