OAK PARK HEIGHTS — Although not earning any style points, the Stillwater boys’ soccer team held off Mounds View for a 1-0 Suburban East Conference victory on Thursday at Pony Stadium.
Alex Jurcoi scored on a corner kick by Nathan Purdie in the 26th minute to provide the only goal of the game as Stillwater remained unbeaten in conference play. With East Ridge and Roseville playing to a scoreless tie on Thursday, the Ponies (5-0-0 SEC, 7-2-1) take over sole possession of first place in the league standings, two points in front of East Ridge (4-0-1, 8-0-1) and Woodbury (4-0-1, 6-1-1).
“It was a struggle to be sure, but we’ll walk away with a win,” Ponies coach Jake Smothers said.
The Ponies also defeated Mounds View during an unbeaten conference season a year ago, but two ties proved costly as the Mustangs slipped in front of Stillwater for the conference championship.
“It was a very important win for us,” said Smothers, who nevertheless felt his team could have played with more energy and intensity. “I kind of talked about it that they didn’t approach this game with the sense of urgency. We’re starting to talk about (a conference title) as a goal. We have a young team so we’ve tried to keep our objectives modest, but we have a chance to be a conference winning team and that’s a big step in getting there.”
Purdie played the corner kick long and Jurcoi headed it down and between a defender’s legs and into the goal for the game-winner.
“It was probably the first header we’d won all game,” Smothers said. “We really struggled with the 50-50 balls and we just didn’t have a lot of energy.”
The Ponies held a 12-9 advantage in shots, but took a more conservative approach in the second half.
“We’ve given up so many late goals and we’re really working hard on stopping that,” Smothers said. “We’re a young team and have been working on our defending. In the second half we really started to lose track of the game, so we were comfortable sitting in our own half and defending and trying to hit them on a break. Seeing these games out, it’s not the prettiest way to do it, but it’s something we haven’t been able to that’s something we have to do. ”
It marked the fifth shutout of the season for goalkeeper Erik Meitz, who finished with two saves.
“The good is that it’s a shutout,” Smothers said. “We kept another team scoreless and that’s something we’re really stressing right now. I would have liked to have seen a lot more energy put into the game and it’s something we’ll address, but in the end it’s soccer where sometimes the energy might not be there, but to get a win out of it is a big step for us.”
The Ponies have outscored their five conference opponents by a combined 18-1 this season.
Mounds View 0 0 — 0
Stillwater 1 0 — 1
St — 26:00 — Alex Jurcoi (Nathan Purdie)
Shots — MV: 9; St: 12.
Goalie saves — MV: NA; St: Erik Meitz 2.