Boys lacrosse: Woodbury beats East Ridge, retains Big Oak Cup
The Big Oak Cup will remain in the hands of the Woodbury Royals lacrosse team - for another year at least.
Led by senior goalie Mac Mitsch and a staunch defensive effort, Woodbury retained the "SoWashCo Big Oak Cup" with a 6-2 win over Suburban East Conference and intra-district rival East Ridge 6-2 on Monday. It was the third straight year and the fourth consecutive time Woodbury defended its stranglehold on the traveling trophy. Woodbury beat Park 8-6 at Woodbury High School back on April 25 and retained the Big Oak Cup in its first defense opportunity this season.
"It feels great," Mitsch said. "The team played amazing. We couldn't have done anything better. We were hustling toward everything and did what we wanted to do and we came away with the big win which is what really mattered."
Mitsch said the win over East Ridge felt as good as beating Park earlier in the year.
"Both are big. They're both for the Big Oak Cup. You take it any way you can get it," he said. "This win put it all together. The emotions are really coming to me now."
This year, each public high school in District 833 has its own boys lacrosse team for the first time. In District 833, lacrosse began at Woodbury High School, with Park having a few players in the cooperative program. After East Ridge opened in 2009, the three area high schools formed a one-team cooperative for one year. In 2010, however, Woodbury was separated and East Ridge and Park formed a cooperative for the past two seasons.
In 2010, former teammates from Woodbury and East Ridge/Park faced off against each other for the first time for the "SoWashCo Cup" - which was built by Woodbury resident Larry Hagen - with Woodbury coming out on top 7-3. Last year, the Royals retained bragging rights and the cup with a 13-6 victory at East Ridge. Monday was East Ridge's last chance to take the traveling trophy from Woodbury this year.
"They're playing against their friends and it's a friendly, competitive thing," Woodbury head coach Rich Limpert said. "They have it in their head to keep the tradition going. Hats off to East Ridge. They play hard all the time and it's always a tight one. You never know how it's going to go."
In the game, Woodbury went ahead 3-0 early on goals by Adam Herold-Plakut, Logan Dirkx and Dan Rudesill. With 2:06 remaining in the half, Woodbury sophomore Lee Broadbent made it a 4-0 Royals lead. Then, as the halftime horn sounded, Rudesill scored his second goal of the game to give Woodbury a sizeable 5-0 advantage at the half.
In the second half of play, East Ridge freshman Grant Edwards got the Raptors on the board with a goal with 3:06 remaining in the third quarter, making it a 5-1 game. However, in the fourth quarter, Broadbent struck again for Woodbury, giving the Royals a 6-1 lead with 11:15 remaining in the game. East Ridge wouldn't quit, though, and junior captain Eric Birkemeier made it a 6-2 game with a goal with 7:05 left on the clock. However, that's as close as the Raptors would get.
Mitsch - a team captain - made a number of big saves in the first half to keep East Ridge off the scoreboard, then got the job done in the second half.
"Our defense kept us in there," Mitsch said. "I did my job as a goalie, but our defense paid off for me."
Limpert also credited the defense, which is led by senior captain Jeff Rech and defensive coach Jay Haapala.
"Jeff Rech is on a different level right now," Limpert said. "He's been doing it all year and he's the guy that everybody gravitates too. He's the full package.
"But, if we're going to talk about defense, Jay Haapala is the defensive identity of this team. When we don't have the ball it's all Jay. These guys are running college sets. He's been with us the whole time. Jay's been doing all the important stuff with this defense the whole time."
Woodbury improved to 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the SEC with the win. East Ridge fell to 2-8 overall and 2-5 in the conference with the loss.
Earlier in the week, Woodbury fell 18-2 to White Bear Lake last Monday and 8-3 to Bloomington Jefferson this past Wednesday. East Ridge lost a close game 7-6 to SEC foe Stillwater last Monday and fell 13-2 to White Bear Lake on Wednesday.
But, all that mattered to Mitsch was the last game and the next game.
"It feels great," he said. "When I'm gone, I just have to make sure when I come back it stays here."
Next, Woodbury takes on non-conference foe Rochester Century at Royals Stadium on Wednesday and hosts Breck on Friday, while East Ridge plays host to SEC opponent Roseville on Wednesday in the teams' final games before the section playoffs begin.
"It's all about when we peak," Limpert said.