AUSTIN — It was a match that lived up to the billing of a section championship.
Two evenly matched teams in Lourdes and Fairmont that saw them go up and down the field, showing off not only individual skill but team skill in the form of chemistry that makes soccer so fun to watch.
The only problem?
Somebody had to lose.
And unfortunately on this night, it was Lourdes as a couple of tough bounces and stellar goalkeeping from Fairmont's keeper Cadence Becker was too much for the Eagles to overcome. They fell to the Cardinals 3-2 in the Section 2A championship Thursday night at Art Hass Stadium in the Austin Wescott Athletic Complex.
It broke a streak of the Eagles (15-4) having qualified for the last three state tournaments (there was no state tournament last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic). It will be Fairmont's first state trip.
"It was a great game all around," Lourdes coach Sarah Groven said. "My girls played their hearts out. It was up and down the field, that's for sure, but a couple of mistakes kind of nipped us in the end."
One of those mistakes was simply an unlucky bounce off a corner kick that went off a Lourdes defender and trickled into the net to put Fairmont up 1-0 in the eighth minute.
"That's what makes this just a tick harder than it needs to be," Groven said.
But nearly 20 minutes later Lourdes found its equalizer thanks to a terrific run from Amelia Gossman, who took an even better through ball from Becca Cook before beating the keeper on a well-placed shot with 18 minutes left in the half. Gossman was terrific all night, finishing with a goal and an assist.
It wasn't tied long, however.
Nine minutes later, Fairmont's Sami Lenort unleashed a wicked, left-footed shot from 28 yards that was just over the outstretched gloves of Lourdes' keeper Addison Lange. It roared into the top shelf of the goal to make it 2-1 heading into halftime.
Still, there was a sense that an equalizer was coming in the second half as Lourdes mounted tremendous pressure into the Cardinals' back end. That pressure resulted in the game-tying goal after another great run from Gossman translated into a shot on goal that was saved by Becker. But Rose Otto was right there to put away the rebound in the 45th minute.
Fairmont answered right back less than two minutes later after Lourdes failed to clear a cross that bounced high. Fairmont's Kate Busche was waiting for it. Her shot went off the glove of a diving Lange before slithering over the goal line for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
"A couple of tough bounces, but our program has won games in similar situations, too," Groven said. "So you have to take the good with the not-so-good sometimes."
The last 30 minutes saw the Eagles push up in hopes of the game-tying goal and it felt the equalizer was on its way -- much like when the Eagles opened the half.
It just never came.
That was thanks, in part, to some timely defense as well as some really big saves from Becker. The senior keeper withstood everything Lourdes threw at her in the final 20 minutes in what was the cap to a stellar night. She finished with 12 saves.
"She was great," Groven said. "She came out on us a few times. We weren't really intimidated by that, but she just seemed to have a step on us. She knows how to really do her job."
The Eagles did have a last gasp when an indirect free kick was awarded just outside of the Cardinals' 6-yard box with 90 seconds left. But the shot was blocked and cleared. Fairmont was able to ice it from there and will now head to its first state tourney, while Lourdes' season ends in a tough one.
"Overall, it doesn't take anything away from the season," Groven said. "Or anything these seniors accomplished. It was just a well-played, evenly-matched game that didn't go our way."
Fairmont 3, Lourdes 2
Fairmont: Scored on Lourdes own goal, Sami Lenort 1 goal, Caroline Adamson 1 goal. Goalie: Candence Becker 11 saves.
Lourdes: Amelia Grossman 1 goal, 1 assist, Rose Otto 1 goal Goalie: Addison Lange 3 saves.