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Soccer roundup: No. 7 Willmar boys turn up the defense

Prep soccer report for Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in west central Minnesota. Cardinals beat No. 6 Apollo for the second time this season in an intense, physical match, 1-0

Willmar junior Isaac Zelaya Velasquez reacts after scoring a goal in the second half during a Central Lakes Conference match against St. Cloud Apollo on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022 at Willmar High School.
Willmar junior Isaac Zelaya Velasquez reacts after scoring a goal in the second half during a Central Lakes Conference match against St. Cloud Apollo on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022 at Willmar High School.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — While St. Cloud Apollo had already clinched the Central Lakes Conference boys soccer title, bragging rights and late-season momentum were on the line Tuesday night between heated rivals Willmar and Apollo.

In a match with both skilled and chippy play, the Cardinals emerged with the 1-0 victory at Willmar High School.

The Eagles came into the match ranked sixth in Class AA while the Cardinals were ranked seventh. Willmar had the only other blemish on Apollo’s record with a 1-0 victory in the season opener on Aug. 30.

“It was a battle; I felt like our guys came to play tonight,” said Willmar head coach Jeff Winter. “We controlled play for all 80 minutes. It was great to see them rise to the occasion. Nice bounce-back from last week against Sauk Rapids.”

Willmar junior Adan Villarreal leaps up to attack the ball during a Central Lakes Conference match against St. Cloud Apollo on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022 at Willmar High School.
Willmar junior Adan Villarreal leaps up to attack the ball during a Central Lakes Conference match against St. Cloud Apollo on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022 at Willmar High School.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Aiming to keep the Eagles’ attack at bay, Willmar’s defense stopped Apollo’s attempts at getting through-balls to its strikers.

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Getting his eighth shutout of the season, senior goalkeeper Andrew Ziebarth proclaimed Tuesday’s match as the Cardinals’ best defensive effort of the season. And they did it with one of the defense’s key pieces, Kadar Muhumed, out with an injury.

“We were able to pull together and the subs played great,” said Ziebarth, who made four saves. “Overall, just a great effort. Everybody had each others’ backs.”

Winter echoed Ziebarth’s thoughts on the defensive backfield.

“Even without (Muhumed) back there, it probably matches our best defensive effort of the year,” Winter said.

Willmar junior Idd Ali, 11, hugs teammate Isaac Zelaya Velasquez after Zelaya Velasquez scored a goal in the second half during a Central Lakes Conference match against St. Cloud Apollo on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022 at Willmar High School.
Willmar junior Idd Ali, 11, hugs teammate Isaac Zelaya Velasquez after Zelaya Velasquez scored a goal in the second half during a Central Lakes Conference match against St. Cloud Apollo on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022 at Willmar High School.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

The intensity ratcheted up in the second half, and Apollo had to play a man down after being issued a red card in the 48th minute.

It didn’t take long for Willmar to take advantage. In the 50th minute, the Cardinals drew a foul and got a free kick from the 15-yard line. After a fake kick, Isaac Zelaya Velasquez came up and fired off a shot. Eagles goalie Dylan Coulter managed to slow down the ball but wasn’t able to keep it out of the net as Willmar went ahead 1-0.

“My mind was blown. I was like, ‘Dang, I actually got it in,’” said Zelaya Velasquez, a junior captain. “I was excited to give my team the lead and we could all play with everything we got.”

In scouting Apollo, Winter wanted the players to aim high against Coulter. That strategy worked on the free kick.

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“Their goalie is small in stature and he struggles with high balls,” Winter said.

“It was a beautiful free kick. Isaac hit that one squarely.”

The Cardinals got another prime opportunity to score in the 64th minute, only for Apollo’s Carl Shobe to come up with the defensive save. And even while being undermanned, the Eagles put the pressure on late. Over the final 15 minutes, both teams were issued red cards. Play was stopped at points to settle down both the players on the field and spectators along the sidelines.

It was a tense climax to a rivalry game. Ultimately, Willmar came away with the shutout victory.

Willmar senior Carson Brown, 2, races by St. Cloud Apollo's  Ethan Christiansen, 14, during a Central Lakes Conference match against St. Cloud Apollo on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022 at Willmar High School.
Willmar senior Carson Brown, 2, races by St. Cloud Apollo's Ethan Christiansen, 14, during a Central Lakes Conference match against St. Cloud Apollo on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022 at Willmar High School.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Apollo is now 7-2 in the CLC and will claim the conference title with 12 points. Willmar is now 7-2-1 and has 10 points in the CLC.

“This was big,” Ziebarth said. “This helps us get on track for playoffs and get back to winning.”

Tuesday’s win also boosts the Cardinals’ resume in Section 6AA. They currently sit as the No. 1 seed and are sixth overall in Class AA in the QRF rankings at 71.2. Second-place St. Francis is 17th overall at 52.4.

“This is going to help us a lot,” Zelaya Velasquez said. “The last few games, we haven’t played that well. But this’ll put our confidence way up. We won’t be overconfident, but we’ll be confident enough to play even better than we did today.”

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Willmar next plays at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Rocori in Cold Spring.

Boys Soccer

Willmar 1, St. Cloud Apollo 0

St. Cloud Apollo (11-2)....... 0  0 — 0
Willmar (11-2-1)................... 0  1 — 1
FIRST HALF – No scoring. 
SECOND HALF – (1) W: Isaac Zelaya Velasquez, 50th minute FK.
SHOTS ON GOAL – SCA: 4. W: 8
GOALIE SAVES – SCA: Dylan Coulter, 7 saves … Willmar: Andrew Ziebarth, 4 saves

Minnewaska 5, Melrose 1

Minnewaska got a tune-up for the playoffs with a victory at Melrose.

First, the Lakers surrendered an own-goal to the Dutchmen in the 23rd minute. Then, Minnewaska got two goals apiece from Aaron Feigum and Genaro Contreras Mondragon and a single goal from Preston Martin for the victory.

Martin’s goal came in the 65th minute. At that point, Minnewaska pulled most of its starters.

“We played last night (a 3-1 win over Rocori) and we were really, really leggy,” Minnewaska head coach Ted Hill said. “We rested some guys.

“We just had to take care of business today.”

Hill said he expects Minnewaska to be the No. 2 seed behind St. Cloud Cathedral in East Sub-Section 8A, with Central Minnesota Christian the likely No. 3 seed. If that’s the case, Minnewaska would host CMCS on Tuesday in the first round of the playoffs.

The Lakers lost to the Bluejays 3-0 on Aug. 30.

The seedings will be announced Sunday when all teams have completed their regular seasons.

Minnewaska (7-7)................. 2  3 — 5
Melrose (0-12)....................... 1  0 — 1
FIRST HALF – (1) Mel: own goal, 23rd minute … (2) Min: Aaron Feigum (Preston Martin), 24th minute … (3) Min: Genaro Contreras Mondragon (Feigum), 30th minute
SECOND HALF – (4) Min: Contreras Mondragon, 51st minute … (5) Min: Feigum (Contreras Mondragon), 57th minute … (6) Min: Martin (Feigum), 65th minute
SHOTS ON GOAL – Minnewaska: 15. Melrose: 5
GOALIE SAVES – Minnewaska: Tenzin Dahl, 4 saves … Melrose: Ederson Lopez, 10 saves

Girls Soccer

Big Lake 1, Willmar 0

Host Big Lake improved its record to 8-4-1 with the victory over visiting Willmar.

“(The) first half of the game was played primarily in Willmar’s defensive end,” Willmar head coach Rebekah Cleary said. “(The) second half of the game was primarily played in Big Lake’s defensive end.“Today, we had two more players sitting out due to injuries, so we had to adjust quickly and chose to play some girls in different positions. (The) Cardinals stepped up and did their best.

“We had some fun and good soccer tonight. Our defense played well and we will continue to develop our shooting and scoring as a team.”

Willmar next plays host to Rocori at 7 p.m. Thursday at Willmar High School.

Willmar (3-10-1)................. 0  0 — 0
Big Lake (8-4-1)................. 0  1 — 1
FIRST HALF – No scoring 
SECOND HALF – (1) BL: Alexis Moen, 42nd minute
GOALIE SAVES – Willmar: Kianna Eichhorst, 19 saves … Big Lake: 10 saves

More soccer coverage:
Recent soccer coverage from west central Minnesota.
Willmar senior Kadar Muhumed named 2022's Mr. Soccer for Class AA.

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