Cardinals open season on road

FAIRMONT – E pluribus unum translated means “out of many, one.”

The Latin phrase can be found minted on the change in our pocket, but it’s also emblazened on the Great Seal of the United States.

Our nation’s motto also can be found at the top of the Fairmont Area Cardinal girls soccer program’s page on the school district’s Minnesota State High School League web site.

In fact, Matt Nielsen has adopted the above mantra heading into his eighth season at the Cardinals’ helm this fall.

“After coaching this sport for this long, I’ve learned that soccer is a patient game. I’ve been preaching to the girls about playing with more patience and making passes with a purpose,” Nielsen said in reference to his unification theme for the season that literally kicks off at 7 p.m. tonight when Fairmont Area travels to Austin. “I’m also really pushing the (increased) scoring aspect this season. We lost a number of low-scoring games by one goal last fall because we just couldn’t finish at the offensive end.

“We want to keep the pressure on our opponents’ defense as much as possible.”

Ironically, the Cardinals will get an early shot at redemption tonight after Austin ended Fairmont Area’s 2012 campaign via a 2-0 victory during the first round of the Section 2A playoffs.

Unfortunately for Nielsen & Co., tonight’s season-opener will be the first of 10 road games out of the team’s 15-game regular-season schedule.

“We only have five home games this season, so we’d better enjoy each and every one of them,” said Nielsen, whose home-opening match is not until Saturday, Sept. 7, when the Cardinals play host to New Ulm in a 2 p.m. South Central Conference clash at Kot Soccer Complex. “It’s just kind of a scheduling fluke with that many away games this season, so the players will have to get used to doing homework on the bus.”

Junior striker Sierra Schultz, an all-SCC choice last fall, and senior midfielder Brooklyn Leichtnam, who netted honorable mention all-league accolades in 2012, will spearhead the lady road warriors’ effort against the Packers at Wescott Field in Austin.

” … We’ll open the season playing on a high school football field, so our immediate challenge will be adapting our game (plan) to playing on a narrow and shorter field than a regular-sized soccer field.”

The fleet-footed Schultz, who topped the Cardinals’ goal-scoring charts last fall, will look to join offensive forces with junior striker Lexi Johnson to stake Nielsen’s crew to an early lead tonight.

Junior speedster Kayley Shoen, sophomore forward Sydney Leichtnam – the junior varsity’s top scorer last season – and sophomore striker Logyn Cone will look to rotate into the lineup and maintain an aggressive offensive approach from the front line.

Brooklyn Leichtnam and senior Courtney Guetter, who’s battled back from a knee injury that wiped out her entire 2012 campaign, will put the Cardinals’ offense in motion from the inside midfielder positions.

Junior Hayley Jones and junior Natalie Shimon will flank Brooklyn Leichtnam and Guetter at the outside spots, while sophomore Marisa Nelson, senior Quincy Quiring and sophomore Riann Dietz will work into the midfield mix.

Senior Mackenzie Betts will handle Fairmont Area’s sweeper duties, while the senior trio of Nicole Lenort, Hailey Wolter and Ashten Atzenhoefer will provide defensive support.

Junior Sierra Schrader will work into the lineup at sweeper, while senior Talitha Burtis, junior Ciera Drevlow and junior Marissa Naab will rotate into the defensive line.

Junior Alex Christianson, the Cardinals’ rookie of the year last fall, and senior Jess Koskovich will anchor Fairmont Area’s defense by handling the goalkeeping duties.

“If we play hard each and every game as a team, the results will take care of themselves,” said Nielsen, whose lineup looks to improve upon last season’s 5-10-2 record. “We play in a tough conference against the likes of three-time section champion St. Peter, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.

” … I’d really like to see us play with a greater confidence going into the playoffs than we have in the past. St. Peter has proven that you don’t necessarily have to win the conference to make it to state.”

Lael Luedtke returns to coach Fairmont Area’s junior varsity squad, Chris Sturdy will help with both the junior varsity and varsity teams, while Terry Fraser will handle the C-squad coaching duties.