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Sarah Apanian and the Royals, ranked No. 6 in Class AA, face Hill-Murray on Thursday, Oct. 11, in the Section 4AA quarterfinals. Woodbury drew the No. 2 seeding; the Pioneers are seeded seventh.

Woodbury girls soccer: Royals firing 'on all cylinders' as playoffs begin

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Woodbury made history last week, but not the kind the team had hoped for.

For the first time in a decade, the Royals did not capture the Suburban East Conference title. Woodbury (11-1-4 overall, 5-1-3 SEC) finished third behind SEC champion White Bear Lake, which was 7-0-2 in the conference this year.

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"I think the girls will be motivated for sections," said co-head coach Bill Ebertz.

Despite the disappointing conference finish, the Royals remain one of the top teams in the state as section play opens this week.

The Royals, ranked No. 6 in Class AA, face Hill-Murray on Thursday, Oct. 11, in the Section 4AA quarterfinals. Woodbury drew the No. 2 seeding; the Pioneers are seeded seventh.

White Bear Lake earned the top seed in Section 4AA. Stillwater is third, Mahtomedi is fourth, Cretin-Derham Hall is fifth and East Ridge is seeded sixth.

Ebertz called the Pioneers "an up-and-down team," noting that they lost to East Ridge, yet tied Section 4AA power Mahtomedi during the regular season.

"Hill-Murray's a team that can be dangerous so we've got to be sure we take charge early," he said. "We have to be focused right away."

The section includes some of the state's top teams. Ranked teams in Section 4AA include Woodbury and No. 8 White Bear Lake. Also receiving votes in the most recent coaches' poll were Section 4AA teams Stillwater and Mahtomedi.

"It's definitely a tough section," Ebertz said.

if they win Thursday, the Royals would play again Saturday against the winner of the Stillwater-East Ridge match-up.

Woodbury will field the SEC's top goal scorer - junior Madison Gaffney - who finished the regular season with 12 goals and 17 points. Senior Kristina White finished the regular season with 10 goals and 16 points.

Meanwhile, senior goalkeeper Liz Sampson enters the playoffs with a 0.8 goals-against average and seven shutouts.

The Royals finished out the regular season with a head of steam.

That concluded with a 7-1 win Thursday, Oct. 4, at home over Mounds View.

Woodbury fell behind early, 1-0.

"They (Mounds View) woke the sleeping giant," Ebertz said.

The Royals finished the second half with a 2-1 halftime lead, where the coach said "the gates kind of opened."

White recorded a hat trick in the game, where Woodbury's seniors exclusively found the back of the net. In addition to White, 12th graders Lisa Huska, Elizabeth Nelson, Madalyn Pechmann and Sara Norton all scored goals for Woodbury.

The Mounds View game followed another win that week - a 6-1 defeat over Hastings.

Bailey Lervick, Elizabeth Nelson, Danielle Nelson, Gaffney, Huska and White all recorded goals in the game.

"We're hitting on all cyclinders," Ebertz said.

He noted that Woodbury has been a section finalist every year since 1998 and only lost twice in that time. He said he hopes that tradition of success motivates this year's players to walk the halls and look at the championship plaques as they prepare for the playoffs.

"A 'Hoosiers' moment is a good thing - to go and look at everything," he said.

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