Jensen sparks Knights past Anoka
BY ROB LAPLANTE
From start to finish, St. Michael-Albertville senior MiCale Jensen had the home crowd on its feet in a thrilling 1-0 victory over Anoka last Tuesday in the Section 8AA girls’ soccer cham
After dropping a 2-1 contest last year to the same Tornadoes in the same section finals, STMA was looking for redemption.
It didn’t take long for Jensen to get the Community Ed Field crowd on its feet. The senior goalkeeper performed the National Anthem prior to the matchup.
Moments later, the crowd was entertained as the Knights came out firing.
Despite being outshot 4-2 in the opening 40 minutes, STMA dominated territorial play. The Knights hit two crossbars and had three corner kicks in the first half, but nothing was able to find the back of the net.
STMA head coach Megan Johnson said the team rallied at halftime and failed to let the bad breaks get to them.
“Usually our team plays better once we score a goal or start getting some really good opportunities,” Johnson said. “We were thinking keep shooting. One is bound to go in eventually and that fired us up a bit more.”
Not even the red-hot combination of Jordyn Walker, a sophomore, or eighth-grade forward Makenzie Langdok could generate any offense. The two had combined for seven playoff goals in the two previous wins.
“Me and Jordyn have been playing really well lately,” Langdok said. “Hopefully we’ll keep progressing and hopefully it will keep going through state.”
The scoring chances for STMA seemed to disappear in the last 40 minutes of play. Anoka was the team getting the quality shots and thanks to a couple crossbars and some clutch saves from Jensen in goal, the game remained scoreless.
One of those saves came with under a minute to play in regulation when Jensen came way out of the net and made a big kick save on a breaking Anoka player.
“We definitely were getting tired,” Johnson said. “The heart and the effort were there. I wasn’t sure if we were going to get past the 20 minutes of overtime, but MiCale made some huge saves.”
With neither team able to score in the regulation and overtime, the section champion was going to be decided in a shootout.
Anoka goalie Katherine Verkuilen and Jensen would go toe-to-toe to see who would save their team to victory. Ironically, it was the foot of Jensen who scored the game’s first shootout goal.
“That was the only opportunity I’ve had to have that happen,” said Jensen, on her first attempt at scoring a goal. “It was kind of a surprise when (Johnson) said I was shooting first, but I was still confident enough to do it.”
With five shooters aside, the Tornadoes eventually would take a 2-1 shootout advantage. The Knights tied the score 2-2 and with one shooter remaining, Jensen came up with another clutch save to send the shootout to a sixth round.
Sophomore Ashley Swanson would score, giving the Knights a 3-2 advantage. With one more save, Jensen and the Knights would be on their way to state.
“I just had to keep taking deep breaths and calming myself down or else I would let my nerves get the best of me,” Jensen said.
Nerves didn’t appear to show, as Jensen made a leaping glove save preserving the win and sending STMA to its first state tournament appearance since 2008-09, when they lost 1-0 to Benilde-St. Margaret’s.
“I’m so excited,” Jensen said. “The past two years we’ve been cut short and I’m so excited we finally got this and it’s my senior year. It’s just amazing.”
STMA (15-1-3 overall) will play the opening round at 5:30 p.m. this Thursday against Wayzata (14-2-2) at St. Cloud State University’s Husky Stadium. Winner advances to the Metrodome on Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. against the winner of Centennial and Blaine.
“Our goal now is to win that first game and make it to the dome,” Johnson said.