Boys soccer: East Ridge ends Woodbury's season
The East Ridge boys soccer team picked the right time to pick up its first-ever victory over Woodbury.
The fifth-seeded Raptors defeated fourth-seeded Woodbury 4-1 in the first round of the Section 4AA playoffs Thursday at Woodbury High School for the first time in school history.
East Ridge (10-5-2) rallied from an early 1-0 deficit to score the next three goals of the game to knock off the Royals (6-9-1) who beat the Raptors 1-0 in last year's section playoffs.
Woodbury's Bobby Kostadinov scored 10 minutes into the match and what followed for East Ridge seemed likely nearly flawless play.
Sophomore Connor Stevenson drew a penalty kick for the Raptors just three minutes later on a tripping call inside the 18-yard box. Senior Merlin Erickson took the penalty kick and drilled it into the lower left corner for the equalizer.
The tying goal energized an East Ridge squad that looked disorganized through the first 13 minutes of the game. The Raptors found their attack through a more direct method than it had played the majority of the season.
By finding Stevenson deep, the target forward, East Ridge built its attack through the counterattack. Stevenson's ability to hold possession allowed the Raptors to find scoring opportunities. Stevenson got rewarded for his work in the 16th minute when he got a foot on a loose ball near the goal after a long throw-in from Erickson to give East Ridge a 2-1 lead.
The Raptors, who lost 4-0 in the first meeting between the teams, didn't stop there. With 2.4 seconds left in the first half, sophomore Samuel Ruiz Plaza delivered a goal from just inside the 18-yard box off another deep throw-in from Erickson. Erickson's throw went to Stevenson, who played a flick ball to Ruiz Plaza. Ruiz Plaza took two touches before getting a right-footed shot off that got deflected into the near side of the net that nearly sealed the victory there.
Woodbury came out in the second half on the offensive and put together a flurry of chances, none of which got past East Ridge and its keeper Chris Knight. The Royals had ample opportunities on set pieces with corner and free kicks, but few dangerous chances.
The Raptors played defensively throughout the second half and threw numbers behind the ball to preserve the lead, but still stuck to their counterattack. In the 56th minute freshman Jarrod Ronquillo sent a right-footed shot past Royals keeper Jacob Simon to put the game out of reach. Senior Steven Vang played a beautiful through ball to Ronquillo to run onto and he beat Simon to the ball in time to get a shot off.
With the win East Ridge moves on to face undefeated and No. 1-ranked North St. Paul Saturday in North St. Paul. The Polars defeated White Bear Lake 2-0 to move on to the semifinals.