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Woodbury's Brandon Bieszk and the Royals battled No.2-ranked North St. Paul till the end, but fell 3-2 to the Polars.

Woodbury boys soccer: Confidence renewed? Royals take No. 2-ranked North to the brink

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After getting outmuscled and outplayed in two consecutive games, the Royals stood tall and nearly toppled one of Minnesota's top teams.

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Woodbury fell 3-2 Thursday, Sept. 13, to North St. Paul, though Royals head soccer coach Joe Quintavalle called the game a confidence builder for his young team.

"We didn't get intimidated," he said of playing the No. 2-ranked Polars. "For the first time, we played through it. It gave us a lot of confidence."

Quintavalle said the loss boosted spirits that had sagged after falling earlier in the week to Cretin-Derham Hall.

Woodbury's record now stands at 2-5 overall and 1-2 in the Suburban East Conference.

Quintavalle said the Royals knew they were in for a test against North, a team that had shut out its prior three opponents and combined to score 16 goals in those games.

"We knew they were going to be good," Quintavalle said.

He said before the game, he challenged his players to push hard for the full 80 minutes. The coach said his players answered the call.

"We by far played our best game (against North)," he said. "We matched them toe to toe."

Captains Mitch Leonard, a senior midfielder, and Matt Jessen-Howard, a junior forward, both recorded goals against the Polars.

The North game came two days after an SEC contest Quintavalle said was "pretty frustrating." Shorted on warm-up time, the Royals came out cold at watched the Raiders notch two goals in the first 10 minutes.

The early deficit forced Quintavalle to shake things up. About halfway through the first half, he subbed out all his starters.

The non-starters "went in and made a difference," he said. Cretin didn't score another first-half goal.

Despite the temporary momentum change, the Royals couldn't match the Raiders' size and experience.

"They're a very good team," Quintavalle said. "They're stronger than us. We just get knocked around a little bit."

The second half did see a bright spot: senior forward Won Suk Chung scored his first goal in a Royals uniform.

Woodbury now takes its newfound confidence into a busy week. The Royals opened the week with a home game Tuesday against SEC foe Forest Lake played after the Bulletin went to press.

On Thursday, Sept. 20, Woodbury faces another SEC opponent that also is among the top-ranked teams in the state - No. 3-ranked Stillwater - in a road match-up.

The Royals close out the week on Saturday, Sept. 22, with a home game against Wayzata.

"It's going to be a pretty competitive week," Quintavalle said.

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