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The wait for state finally ends for Cotter

Winona Cotter is heading to the state girls soccer tournament for the first time in school history thanks to a 2-0 win over Dover-Eyota in the Section 1A championship game.

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Winona Cotter celebrates after winning a Section 1A girls soccer championship match against Dover-Eyota Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Rochester Community and Technical College in Rochester. Winona-Cotter defeated Dover-Eyota 2-0. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

The missed opportunities to reach the state tournament were agonizing for the Winona Cotter girls soccer team.

In 2019, Cotter finished 17-1, the lone loss 1-0 to Lourdes in the state-qualifying Section 1A championship.

A year ago, Cotter was a perfect 14-0 and section champion, but still missed out on a trip to state. The COVID-19 pandemic stripped away all fall state tournaments in 2020.

Now, finally, the agony of state-tournament denial is over for Cotter. The Ramblers are going and fittingly doing it behind a pack of 10 seniors who've put Cotter on the girls soccer map the last three years.

Cotter punched its ticket on Tuesday night, the No. 1 seed beating second-seeded Dover-Eyota 2-0 in the Section 1A title match at Rochester Regional Stadium.

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Dover-Eyota’s Layken Koehler (13) and Winona Cotter’s Ella Leaf (4) battle for the ball during a Section 1A girls soccer championship match Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Rochester Community and Technical College in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

"Finally getting over the hump, this is amazing," said Cotter star senior forward Olivia Gardner, who had two goals and now has an astronomical 39 for the season. "I feel like we've been working up to this every year, each season getting a little bit further. And now that we are finally at state, I think we can do something really special."

Cotter takes with it a 16-1-2 record and a No. 9 Class A ranking into the tournament, which begins next week, an exact date and site to be determined.

It will also bring with it a girl who's been through a lot in the last year. That is standout senior midfielder Sera Speltz, who tore the ACL in her right knee in last year's section title game, also a win over Dover-Eyota.

Speltz has spent ever since rehabbing from the injury. She was good to go at the beginning of this season, then in the third game suffered a strained quadricep, shelving her until the playoffs.

But Speltz has been active in all three postseason games, including dishing out the assist on Gardner's first goal, which came with 5:42 left in the first half. Cotter carried that lead into the second half before getting a Gardner insurance goal on a penalty kick with 33:36 left in regulation.

Speltz was overjoyed to be out there again and part of a Cotter team that coach Marie Barrientos first envisioned great things for when these seniors were in fifth grade.

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"It feels so good to be back," Speltz said. "I am so grateful. Playing with these girls, that's what means the most."

It's a group that completely dominated the action in this section final. Cotter outshot Dover-Eyota 9-1 in the first half, 7-2 in the second.

The loss ended the Eagles' season at 14-4-1.

And Cotter's win? Well it had the Ramblers coach beaming every bit as much as her players.

"This group is a family, and they've been together for so long," Barrientos said. "I'm just so excited about this."

Cotter 2, Dover-Eyota 0

Dover-Eyota 0-0--0

Winona Cotter 1-1--2

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Dover-Eyota: Goalie: Emma Webeck 14 saves.

Lourdes: Olivia Gardner 2 goals; Sera Speltz 1 assist; . Goalie: Tess Mullen 3 saves.

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