Raptors continue 4A playoff runEast Ridge girls soccer executes second playoff shutout with 1-0 win at South St. Paul; defending Class A champs next.
By: Tom Carothers, Woodbury Bulletin
Two shutout victories to open its first-ever Section 4A playoff run have poised the East Ridge girl’s soccer team just two more wins away from earning a trip to the state tournament in their inaugural season.
“We’ve been playing some good soccer,” coach Mark Abboud said. “All along, it has been our goal to get to State this season and we’re getting closer to making that happen.”
The Raptors, seeded fifth in the section — a low seeding based largely on a pair of season-opening losses to fellow 4A squads South St. Paul and Simley — get a chance to knock off the defending Class A state champ, Mahtomedi, this week after shutting out both St. Paul Johnson and the Packers in their first two playoff games.
“It’s been real exciting,” sophomore forward Anna Solheim said. “Everything has been real positive and we are working well together.
“Hopefully, we can keep on winning and move on.”
Solheim scored the lone goal of a 1-0 win at No. 4 seed South St. Paul, with the assist going to junior midfielder Bianca Biaz, in the 38th minute of play.
The Raptors, who Abboud said were being outplayed in the first half leading up to the eventual game-deciding score, held fast to the lone tally in the face of a spirited Packer offensive thrust over the final 40 minutes for the victory.
Goaltender Meagan Larson, who came into the game to relieve starter Kim Clinch, who was suffering from a bad back, made several solid saves in her 75 minutes of play to help clinch the victory.
“That was sectional soccer,” the coach said. “We were not technically sound, but battled and got the win — hats off to Meagan, she made some huge saves for us.”
Abboud noted that it was nice to get the victory to avenge the program-opening defeat.
“We scheduled teams like South St. Paul and (No. 4 sectional seed Simley) because we knew that they would be strong opponents come section time.”
While the second round playoff game was a tight, physical struggle, East Ridge’s playoff opener was far from it as the Raptors walloped Johnson, 6-0, in their home finale on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
“We were able to work on our game while respecting our opponents,” Abboud said of the opener.
Odd sentiment, considering East Ridge (11-6-1) is the newcomers to high school play, yet the coach said that he no longer considers his club to be a spring-chicken squad.
“We’re a young team, but we’ve come a long way in these seven, eight weeks,” he said. “We don’t consider ourselves a first-year team and we don’t take the field like a first-year team.
Instead, the Raptors took to the pitch at the Nest in a fast and ferocious manner, recording two goals in the first 10 minutes against the Governors and never looking back en route to a 9-0 opening round victory.
Solheim, Diaz, Josie Brinkman, Katelyn Berghoff and Kari Solheim scored to build a 5-0 Raptors lead at the break before Diaz, Elizabeth Koprucki, Nikki Soler and Noelle Arcand fired home four more scores in the final 40 minutes en route to the shutout victory over the No. 12 seed.
It is doubtful to be that easy as East Ridge travels to the junior high field at Mahtomedi to play the Zephyrs— winners of four of the last six Class A titles.
“They are heavy favorites on paper,” Abboud said. “Yet, I think we can go in there and pull off another upset.”
Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22.
A win at Mahtomedi would send the Raptors — undefeated in their last eight games — to the Section 4A final against either No. 2 seed St. Croix Lutheran or third-seeded Simley.