Woodbury boys soccer: Royals nearly clip No. 4-ranked Stillwater
Sometimes a little momentum goes a long way.
On the heels of a tie against the state's top-ranked team, Woodbury went on a tear last week and boosted its standing in the competitive Suburban East Conference.
The Royals trounced Forest Lake 8-1 on Sept. 18 before battling to a 1-1 tie against No. 4-ranked Stillwater in a Thursday, Sept. 20 road game. That was followed by a 4-2 victory Saturday, Sept. 22, against Wayzata.
Coach Joe Quintavalle said the turning tide got its boost from the Royals' 3-2 loss Sept. 13 against No. 1-ranked North St. Paul.
"We did pretty well against the top teams in the state, and not just against the section," he said. "We're playing with a lot more confidence now than we did earlier in the season."
Woodbury's record now stands a 4-5-1 overall and 2-2-1 in the SEC. The Royals moved up in conference standings, but still trail a strong field of four: first place Stillwater (4-0-1), Cretin-Derham Hall (4-1), Roseville (4-1) and Mounds View (4-1).
Quintavalle said the team's goal of finishing in the top two among SEC teams could still be possible, but noted that his focus is elsewhere.
"I'm just looking to the sectionals," he said.
Saturday's action kicked off against Wayzata with senior co-captain Mitch Leonard logging a goal, which was followed by another by senior forward Won Suk Chong. The goals brought the first half to a 2-2 tie.
Junior forward Matt Jessen-Howard scored a header in the second half off a free kick from Leonard, giving Woodbury a 3-2 lead.
"That was just a beautiful goal," Quintavalle said.
Freshman Brandon Bieszk finished off the Trojans with the Royals' fourth goal.
The tie with Stillwater had all the makings of a Woodbury win - until the closing seconds.
Leading 1-0 on a Chung goal off a cross from junior Nick Sheak, the Royals held the lead until a Stillwater player broke Woodbury's defenses and scored with five seconds left in regulation.
Both teams battled to a scoreless overtime session.
"(Goalkeeper) Jake Simon played out of his mind," Quintavalle said of the sophomore's play against Stillwater. "(He) made some incredible saves."
Against Forest Lake, the Royals fell behind 1-0 right away. That didn't last.
Chung went on a scoring rampage, logging three first-half goals. They included two inside of a minute. Both of those came on top of a Bobby Kostadinov penalty-kick goal that gave Woodbury three goals in two minutes.
"I was happy that we didn't let up right away," Quintavalle said of the Forest Lake game."
Bieszk and Tayo Famodu helped Woodbury close the half with a 6-1 lead.
Leonard and Jessen-Howard both had second-half goals for the Royals.
Woodbury gets more opportunity to boost its SEC record this week with its Homecoming game against Roseville on Tuesday, Sept. 25, and a road game at White Bear Lake on Thursday, Sept. 27. The Royals close out the week with a non-conference game against Prior Lake.