WILLMAR — Since leaving St. Cloud Apollo and forming its boys soccer program in 2009, Sauk Rapids had dropped 15 of its first 16 contests against Willmar leading up to Tuesday’s match from an overcast Hodapp Field.
The visitors’ only win in their matchup came in 2012 in the form of a 2-1 victory. After seven years and several losses later, the Storm finally duplicated that performance.
Earning the equalizer late in regulation, the Sauk Rapids delivered some late-match magic, as sophomore attacker Eli Molianen notched the game-winning tally with just seven seconds left in overtime to propel the Storm to a 2-1 triumph over the Cardinals.
“It feels great,” Storm head coach Chris Rothstein said. “These kids, especially the seniors, have gone through a lot of really tough years where we haven’t won at all or have only won one game, and it just shows them and it shows everybody that if you work hard and put everything into it, you can get results. I’m just happy for them, they really deserve it.”
After the Storm was awarded a corner kick in the 90th minute, Molianen snuck behind the Cardinals defense and was wide open near the far post, where he buried the ball into the net with a header.
“I told the guys to be upset about this tonight, but come tomorrow with a fresh attitude to start turning things around and get ready for the next game, get ready for Thursday,” Willmar head coach Jeff Winter said.
The two teams went scoreless for nearly three quarters of regulation, but the hosts easily had the best opportunity to break the drought late in the first half.
Forcing a turnover in the middle of the field, sophomore attacker Anthony Reyes was fouled in the box, earning a penalty. Kelvin Gomez Padilla was called to take the attempt, but his low-shot was stoned by junior keeper Eli Rudnick.
In the 59th minute, sophomore midfielder Diego Gonzalez delivered a deep ball to Jairo Martinez Coto. The sophomore attacker out-ran a Storm defender and put the ball past Rudnick, who slipped when trying to make a save.
The visitors tied match 12 minutes later. Cardinals sophomore attacker Jorge Zelaya Velasquez was whistled for a foul in the box. Sauk Rapids senior midfielder Kyle Conway stepped up to take the PK. While Cardinals junior keeper Leighton Winter was able to get his mitts on the first shot, Conway sprinted toward the goal and put away the rebound.
“Definitely a tough one to swallow, losing that one late after being up 1-0 and giving up two late goals,” Winter said. “We had our opportunities, we had more scoring opportunities. It would’ve been a different story if we would’ve capitalized a little earlier.”
Sauk Rapids 2,
Willmar 1 (OT)
Sauk Rapids (3-2).......... 0 1 1 — 2
Willmar (2-3)................... 0 1 0 — 1
FIRST HALF – None
SECOND HALF – W: Jairo Martinez Coto (Diego Gonzalez) 59th minute … SR: Kyle Conway 71st minute
OVERTIME – SR: Eli Moilanen 90th minute
SHOTS ON GOAL – N/A
GOALIE SAVES – N/A
DEFENSIVE SAVES – None