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Woodbury girls soccer: Royals enter conference play 1-2

A record of 1-2 could cause alarm for the Woodbury Royals girls soccer team.

Rather, it serves as a reminder of the road ahead in the grueling Suburban East Conference. The Royals open conference play on Thursday at Forest Lake.

“There are at least four to five teams that could win it,” Royals coach Bill Ebertz said.

Early-season match-ups have prepped the Royals with games against No. 3 Eden Prairie and No. 6 Burnsville. Another top-10 team, Eagan, had been on the Royals’ schedule for August 27. The extreme heat led to the game’s postponement.

“We think that to be the best, you have to play the best,” Ebertz said. “Our schedule is tough, but it’s important to be playing our best soccer at the end of the year.”

The Royals fell to Eden Prairie 2-0 at the Duluth tournament on Aug. 23. Royals goalkeeper Meghan Konop had sevens saves in the game. April Bokin of the Eagles had the only goals in the game.

“We need to be a little more physical in our player, and also, we just need to get used to each other,” Ebertz said following the tournament.

More recently, the Royals came up short against Burnsville in a 1-0 loss. Konop had six saves in the game. Megan Engle scored the lone goal for the Blaze, and goalkeeper Darby Lofthus stopped eight shots by the Royals.

“It was up and down,” Royals co-coach Pat Malicki said. “We had chances to finish, but didn’t put one away.”

The lone win for the Royals in the young season came against Andover in a 5-0 victory on August 24 in Duluth. Dani Nelson led the Royals with two goals, and Maddi Gaffney had a goal and two assists. Megan Sturges and Grace Rogers each had goals for the Royals.

While the Royals hope to even their record on Thursday at Forest Lake in the SEC opener, the top-ten caliber teams will come along the schedule soon in SEC play. Defending SEC champion and state runner-up White Bear Lake had a No. 7 ranking in the preseason poll. Conference runner-up and Section 4 semifinalist Stillwater also received significant votes to be in the poll.

Time will tell if the non-conference gauntlet will pay off for the Royals.

“We are a work in progress, and I think every game we will progressively play better,” Ebertz said.

—Matthew Davis