WILLMAR — It was a record-setting regular-season finale for the Willmar boys soccer team.
With a 5-0 victory over Central Lakes Conference rival Rocori Thursday at Hodapp Field, the ninth-ranked (Class AA) Cardinals capped off the first undefeated regular season in school history. Willmar began varsity soccer in 2000.
“It’s been a pretty interesting season,” said senior striker Jairon Martinez Coto. “Our team’s been having close calls but I believe in my teammates and we’ve had good results in winning the CLC.”
With a 12-0 record in the CLC, it is also the first time Willmar went undefeated in conference play since going 11-0-1 in 2017.
And, Thursday’s victory gave this iteration of the Cardinals an edge over the school’s best team in recent memory.
“I keep comparing these guys to the 2016 team that went to state,” said Willmar head coach Jeff Winter. “Now they can say they got one up on them in the regular season.
“Now they need to prove it in the postseason.”
The Cardinals jumped on the Spartans early with some sharp passing. In the eighth minute, a cross pass from Abdullahi Mohamud made it to Martinez Coto, who had a step on his defender. Martinez Coto buried the first of his two goals to put Willmar ahead 1-0.
“At first I thought I was going to miss it, but it was a really lucky goal,” Martinez Coto said. “Thank God it went in.”
Jordy Contreras put in another Willmar goal, with an Anthony Reyes Jimenez assist, in the 14th minute. Then Diego Gonzalez put the Cardinals up 3-0 with a goal off a Contreras assist in the 18th minute.
“We’ve been working the whole season on accomplishing everything we can on scoring and getting the lead,” Martinez Coto said. “I trust my teammates out there and we’ve gotten good results lately.”
Martinez Coto and Contreras each had goals in the second half.
Coming into the year, Winter emphasized an active offense that utilized cross-passing, much like the teams in England’s Premier League. The result has been an offense that ranks fourth in Class AA with 4.3 goals per game.
“What I’ve seen is the guys bought into it right away,” Winter said. “You get two people active because you can dribble it down and they cut it back and set (the ball), or you can send it across the 6-yard box and then we expand it out and make those diagonal crosses into the box. It gets more people involved and I think it’s more game-like than the typical shooting drills.
“It’s paying off. We’re scoring goals and it’s fun to see.”
On defense, the Cardinals’ midfielders kept the visitors from getting sustained offense throughout the game. Rocori had just four shots on goal, all stopped by goalkeeper Andrew Ziebarth.
“(Midfield play) was a point of emphasis today because in our last tie (last Saturday against Monticello), they weren’t as aggressive,” Winter said. “The midfield play is essential. If you can’t play in the midfield, you’re putting your defense under a lot of pressure. The three guys across the middle — Abdulahi, Diego and Anthony — I thought played very well as a group.”
Winter added: “It was just a really strong team win all around.”
Willmar now awaits section seeding for 6AA, which takes place Sunday. The Cardinals should be voted as the top seed.
First-round matches begin Thursday, Oct. 14 at the high seed. Semifinals take place on Oct. 19 and the Section 6AA championship is Oct. 21 at a neutral site.
“We’re going to work hard and try to make it through the playoffs,” Martinez Coto said. “We know every team isn’t going to be easy, but we’re working hard to accomplish what we can.”
Willmar 5, Rocori 0
Rocori (6-10-0).................... 0 0 — 0
Willmar (14-0-2)................... 3 2 — 5
FIRST HALF – W: Jairon Martinez Coto (Abdullahi Mohamud) 8th minute … W: Jordy Contreras (Anthony Reyes Jimenez) 14th minute … W: Diego Gonzalez (Contreras) 18th minute
SECOND HALF – W: Martinez Coto (Gonzalez) 43rd minute … W: Contreras (Jemil Osman) 52nd minute
SHOTS ON GOAL – R: 4. W: 15
GOALIE SAVES – R: Luis Lopez, 10 saves … W: Andrew Ziebarth, 4 saves
Minnewaska 4, Fergus Falls 0
Minnewaska closed out the regular season with the non-conference victory over Fergus Falls at Glenwood.
Ethan Quelle scored two goals and Damon Uhde and Blake Nelson each had one for the Lakers. Junior Hunter Kloos recorded his third shutout of the season, making seven saves.
Minnewaska now awaits for the seeding process to be completed in Section 8A. Lakers head coach Ted Hill said he expects a top-three seed in the South Sub-Section with St. Cloud Cathedral the likely No. 1 and Central Minnesota Christian the likely No. 2. Section pairings are expected to be announced Friday.
Fergus Falls (2-12)................. 0 0 — 0
Minnewaska (8-5)................... 2 2 — 4
FIRST HALF – (1) M: Ethan Quelle, 7th minute … (2) M; Damon Uhde (Noah Palmer) 15th minute
SECOND HALF – (3) M: Ethan Quelle on a penalty kick, 48th minute … (4) Blake Nelson (Quelle), 68th minute
SHOTS ON GOAL – FF: 7. M: 11
GOALIE SAVES – FF: Leighton Buckmeier, 8 saves … M: Hunter Kloos, 7 saves
CMCS 2, St. John’s Prep 0
Central Minnesota Christian got goals from Ellian Millan and Braelin Rime to beat St. John’s Prep at Prinsburg.
Millan was credited with the first goal, which was an own goal against the Johnnies.
Josh Nelson made five saves to record the shutout for the Bluejays.
CMCS wraps up the regular season with a 1 p.m. game Saturday at Heritage Christian.Academy in Maple Grove.
St. John’s Prep (5-8-1)................. 0 0 — 0
CMCS (7-5)................................... 1 1 — 2
FIRST HALF – (1) CMCS: Ellian Millan (own goal), 14th minute.
SECOND HALF – (2) CMCS: Braelin Rime, 45th minute
SHOTS ON GOAL – SJP: 5. CMCS: 9
GOALIE SAVES – SJP: not available, 7 saves … CMCS: Josh Nelson, 5 saves
Willmar 3, Rocori 0
The Willmar girls soccer team capped off the regular season with a victory over Rocori at Blattner Stadium in Cold Spring.
Concluding the regular season with a 10-4-2 record, this is the first year the Cardinals have won 10 games since 2008.
“The girls are very proud of their record. That’s the best record Willmar’s had since I’ve been around in four years,” said Willmar head coach Amanda Sellner. “They’re very happy with that and we’re glad we could end the year strong with this victory.”
Ellary Lange had both of the Cardinals’ first-half goals, coming at the 25th and 36th minutes. The first goal was unassisted while Sam Chrisoffer had a helper on Lange’s second goal.
The two connected again in the second half as Christoffer scored off a Lange assist in the 60th minute.
“Ellary’s been an offensive powerhouse for us all season,” Sellner said. “She doesn’t do it alone, but she finds the right place at the right time. She finds the back of the net consistently.
“Ellary and Sammy, they can find each other and make offense happen.”
Goalkeeper Ella Swenson made one save while getting her fifth shutout of the season.
Seeding for the Section 6AA tournament takes place Sunday. First-round games take place on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at the high seed. The semifinals are Oct. 19 and the section championship is Oct. 21 at a neutral site.