ST. Cloud - As the state's No. 1-ranked Class 1A team, and a program with five state championship game appearances and two titles to its credit since 2005, the Benilde-St. Margaret's girls' soccer team is accustomed to opponents trying to shut down its potent offense.
No problem. The Red Knights know there are plenty of ways to score.
They did it Wednesday with corner kicks and one long, sneakily dangerous shot, pulling away in the second half to defeat Princeton 3-0 at Husky Stadium to advance to the championship game for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
With Princeton (19-3) taking a defensive posture, much of Benilde-St. Margaret's offensive pressure came on set pieces. Fortunately for the Red Knights, they have a corner-kick specialist in senior midfielder Sophie Roux. She took all nine of her team's corner kicks, with two of them resulting in goals.
"We knew they weren't marking the corners, so we were trying to get the ball to the end line and get corner kicks," Roux said. "It felt like I'd take a corner, then take another corner, then another."
Benilde-St. Margaret's (19-1-1) took a 1-0 lead 11 minutes, 2 seconds into the first half when Roux placed a perfect corner onto the forehead of Taylor Gelling, who headed it home.
That 1-0 lead held until the game's 66th minute. Junior Maren Noble hit a 36-yard laser that slipped through the Princeton keeper's hands and rolled into the net. "I've got a pretty hard shot, so my coach tells me to shoot from outside the box," Noble said. "That's why."
The final score came on another header off of a corner kick, this time by Aleksa Tatartyn, recently selected Ms. Soccer in Class 1A.
"That was our plan, especially after halftime," said Benilde-St. Margaret's coach Scott Helling-Christy of the corner-kick strategy. "They were putting a lot of players back to defend, so it makes it very difficult. But when you get a corner kick, you get to put players in the goal."