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Bobby Kostadinov will help lead the Royals this season.

2012 Fall Preview: Woodbury boys soccer team young, deep in 2012

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When Joe Quintavalle looks at his roster, he sees depth and talent.

"We're pretty strong at every position," the Woodbury soccer coach said.

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What he doesn't see, however, is significant experience at the varsity level. The Royals carry just four seniors on the starting roster and had to watch former standouts Luke Hauswirth and Tanner Carlson lose eligibility due to their participation in the Minnesota Thunder soccer academy.

Despite the mixed bag, Quintavalle - who enters his 20th year as head coach at Woodbury - is confident that this year's squad will be a contender. He's not the only one. According to a preseason poll, Woodbury was listed among honorable mention teams.

Quintavalle said he's aiming for the Royals to finish in the top two teams in the Suburban East Conference and to earn a state berth through section play.

"They're pretty lofty goals," he said, "but we want to challenge ourselves."

This year's team is captained by senior midfielders Mitch Leonard and Bobby Kostadinov, and Steven Jessen-Howard, a junior forward.

Other key players include senior forward Won Suk Chung, who played for East Ridge last season and led the Raptors in scoring, and sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Simon.

The varsity team looks to field six sophomores and freshman Brandon Bieszk, who Quintavalle said could make an impact as a new face.

The coach said Woodbury's depth of talent means the Royals should remain strong as fresh players are rotated in.

"It's not like we have a drop-off," Quintavalle said, adding that "some very good players" were cut for the JV program.

He said Stillwater should be the team to beat this year in the SEC. The Ponies are coached by Phil Johnson, who is retiring this year - an element that Quintavalle said should provide Stillwater extra motivation.

"They're going to be really strong this year," he said of Stillwater.

Quintavalle listed Mounds View, Roseville and Cretin-Derham Hall as other top SEC contenders.

He expected North St. Paul and Roseville to pose the toughest challenges in section play.

The Royals started the season 1-0-1 with a win over Hill-Murray and a tie with Champlin Park. Woodbury kicks off the conference schedule at intra-district rival East Ridge on Aug. 29.

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