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Woodbury girls soccer: Royals fall to Mahtomedi 3-1 in section championship

A quick offensive spurt by Mahtomedi washed away Woodbury’s state tournament hopes on a rainy Tuesday night. The No. 8 Class AA-ranked Zephyrs beat the Royals 3-1 in the Section 4AA championship game on Tuesday at Woodbury High School.

“It was just an up and down game,” Woodbury Royals coach Pat Malicki said.  “We were controlling play for a little bit, and then they took it to us.”

Woodbury senior midfielder Megan Sturges tied the Section 4AA finals game 1-1 for the top-seeded Royals less than the minutes into the second half when she punched in a loose ball through a crowd of players.  The second-seeded Mahtomedi Zephyrs went ahead 1-0 early in the half on a similar goal.

“She just keeps battling,” Malicki said of Sturges.  “She doesn’t have any quit in her.”

The Royals took control of the ball for the next 10-12 minutes, but they could not come away with another score.  Then, the Zephyrs shifted the momentum of ball control and broke away for goal near the midway point of the half.

“We lost the ball up top,” Royals senior midfielder Maddie Gaffney said.  “We kind of broke down, and they took advantage and scored.”

The Zephyrs put the Royals in a deeper hole around the eight-minute mark on a breakaway goal for a 3-1 lead.  The Royals made the efforts they could to get back in the game, but time proved to be their enemy as it expired.

“It’s hard to score in this game when you’re down by two goals,” Malicki said.   “You just keep pushing and hopefully get breaks.”

In their previous meeting back on September 14, the Royals handed the Zephyrs (17-1-1) their only loss of the season in a 1-0 victory. The two also scrimmaged against each other before the season.

“From the first time we scrimmaged them, we knew they were good,” Malicki said.  “It’s hard to beat a team twice.”

The Royals’ season ended at 14-6-1 overall after a slow start to the season.  They had a third-place finish in the Suburban East Conference at 5-2-1 in SEC play.  Their season concluded as the runner-up for Section 4AA.

“Our team’s really improved from day one, so I’m proud of them,” Malicki said.

The Royals will graduate a senior class of eight from the team.  Gaffney has committed to play for the University of Minnesota next year.  Senior defender Grace Rogers will play Division I soccer at Valparaiso.

-Matthew Davis