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Royals roll into State title game

Caitlin Graboski celebrated with teammates after scoring the first goal of the State Class AA girls soccer semifinal, much to the dejection of the Royals opposition from Eagan. Woodbury won the contest, 3-0, on Tuesday to advance to the State final. Staff Photo by Tom Carothers.1 / 3
Woodbury goalkeeper Brittany Cygan made five saves to record her second shutout of the 2009 Class AA Girls State Soccer Tournament in a 3-0 win over Eagan in the semifinals on Tuesday. Staff Photo by Tom Carothers.2 / 3
Senior forward Shannon Carlson subbed in for the final five-plus minutes of play in the Class AA State Girls Soccer Tournament semifinal, her first action since suffering an ankle injury in mid-September. Staff Photo by Tom Carothers.3 / 3

A lackadaisical first half could not prevent Woodbury from advancing to the championship game of the Class AA State Girls Soccer Tournament as the top-seeded Royals shutout No. 4 seed Eagan, 3-0, on Tuesday afternoon at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

"It certainly was a tale of two halves," co-head coach Bill Ebertz said. "We were a step behind in the first half, committing a lot of fouls and giving up a lot of free kicks -- but we got things going after halftime."

Despite being a little off in the first 40 minutes, Woodbury managed to score the only goal it would need just 328 seconds into the affair as midfielder Caitlin Graboski tipped in a shot amidst the fray in front of the Wildcats net to give the No. 1-ranked team in the nation a 1-0 advantage.

Woodbury gave Ebertz and the Royals coaching staff a few tense moments over the remainder of the frame, however, allowing seven free kicks and three corner kicks to just three and none themselves before halftime.

"You can't give the other team that many set plays," Ebertz said.

However, Woodbury (21-0-1) came out in charge after the 10-minute break and all-but clinched the game in the 50th minute as forward Aly DuVal juked a Wildcat defender and seared a shot past Eagan goalkeeper Kristen Knutson.

"Once we got that second goal, I was not too worried," Ebertz said.

By the time Mary Kroening headed home a corner kick from fellow defender Kassey Kallman six minutes later, Woodbury fans were already planning a return trip to the Dome on Thursday.

"Kassey played a great ball in," Kroening said. "I knew I could hit it in -- being taller than everyone has its advantages."

The game not only pronounced the ninth time a WHS girls squad has qualified for the State final, it also marked the return of forward Shannon Carlson to the pitch. The senior, out since injuring her ankle Sept. 14 against Northfield, played the final five-plus minutes of the game -- nearly deflecting in a goal -- and reported no ill effects.

"It felt amazing to be out there," Carlson said. "It was just good to get out and run."

Woodbury keeper Brittany Cygan recorded her second shutout of the tournament with five saves on the day.

The Royals will look to claim their fifth State championship of the decade and sixth overall when they take on No. 3 seed Wayzata (17-0-5) in the Class AA title game on Thursday at 3 p.m. The Trojans upset second-seeded Edina in a shootout after 100 scoreless minutes of play in the second semifinal of the afternoon.

"We will certainly have to step it up in the finals," Ebertz said.

Stay with for more up-to-the-minute coverage of the Royals girls soccer playoff coverage.

Last updated: Nov. 3, 4:58 p.m.