COTTAGE GROVE — A dogfight was expected in the Suburban East Conference this fall and the Stillwater girls’ soccer team did its part to ensure additional parity while handing ninth-ranked Park its first loss of the season on Tuesday night.
The Ponies defeated the Wolfpack 1-0 to leave White Bear Lake (3-0-0, 7-1-0) as the only team without a loss in conference play less than halfway through the league schedule. Stillwater (3-1-0, 5-3-1) pulled into a three-way tie for second place with Park and Roseville and will face another stiff test on Thursday when it hosts 10th-ranked Woodbury.
All three of Stillwater’s losses this season have been by a single goal.
“We’ve lost some heartbreakers,” Ponies coach Mike Huber said. “We’ve lost a couple of these games so it’s good to play a good team and come out on the other end of it. It was just overall a good effort, hopefully we can have the same result against Woodbury on Thursday. Tonight was probably our most important game of the year and then we look ahead to Thursday and these two games will tell us if we are going to have a shot at the conference or not.”
Neither team created a lot of scoring opportunities, but the Ponies capitalized on one to provide the difference as Maddie Schaak scored in the 26th minute of the first half. After taking a pass from Ali Schilling, the senior captain cut across the middle of the field with a short dribble and blistered a shot past goalkeeper Emily Lange and into the upper corner of the net.
The Ponies managed just five shots on goal in the game, compared to three for Park, but controlled play throughout much of the first half. Four of Stillwater’s five corner kicks came in the first half and that led to several scrums in front of the net, although the Wolfpack eventually cleared the ball each time.
“It was a lot of play in the midfield,” Huber said. “We didn’t take a lot of shots, but we did have some good opportunities. I would say we completely dominated the first half with the exception of maybe five minutes. We’d get the ball into the box and not get a shot off or they’d clear it out. We had some good opportunities and a lot of action, but didn’t poke it in.”
Schaak had another strong scoring opportunity in the final minute of the game but was unable to beat Lange on a breakaway.
Park was more dangerous in the second half and, like Stillwater in the first half, many of those opportunities came on corner kicks.
“They were dangerous and there was a lot of action in front of the goal, but our defenders did a good job of clearing it out,” Huber said.
Megan Holthaus finished with three saves to earn the shutout for Stillwater, which has posted shutouts in four of its five victories this season.
Stillwater 1 0 — 1
Park 0 0 — 0
St — 26:00 — Maddie Schaak (Ali Schlling)
Shots on goal — St: 5; Par: 3.
Corner kicks — St: 5; Par: 4.
Fouls — St: 5; Par: 2.
Goalie saves — St: Megan Holthaus 3; Par: Emily Lange 4.