FOREST LAKE — The Stillwater boys’ soccer team received a pleasant surprise following Tuesday’s 2-0 Suburban East Conference victory over Forest Lake.
The victory, coupled with Park’s 2-0 triumph over Roseville, clinches the conference championship outright for the Ponies (7-0-1, 10-2-3). Stillwater has 22 points to lead East Ridge (5-1-2, 10-1-2) by five points and the Raiders (5-2-1 SEC, 8-4-3) by six points with one league game remaining.
“I’m happy for the boys,” Ponies coach Jake Smothers said. “It’s a reflection of the effort they’ve had and the work they have put in. We did not list this as an objective coming into the season, but it became a realistic goal for us after the Roseville game (a 3-0 victory on Sept. 17).”
The Ponies are undefeated in their past 31 conference games dating back to a 2-1 overtime loss against White Bear Lake on Sept. 30, 2010.
Senior Aropo Ojulu provided his team-leading eighth and ninth goals for the Ponies on Tuesday and goalkeeper Erik Meitz recorded his ninth shutout of the season.
Ojulu scored with an assist from Charlie Farrington in the 29th minute after a succession of corner kicks. Stillwater, in fact, took a season-high 12 corner kicks in the game and outshot the Rangers (1-6-1, 3-11-1) by an 18-3 margin.
“We felt very comfortable tonight,” Smothers said. “Their field is a little tighter than ours and they play there quite well. The results of their games have been close because they are organized and play with a lot of energy, but we felt comfortable that we could get a goal and that would be enough.”
Stillwater missed on numerous other opportunities, but Ojulu struck again for an insurance goal midway through the second half for a 2-0 lead. Ojulu pushed it through and around two defenders before cutting a shot across the box and into to net.
“It was a good individual effort,” Smothers said.
The Ponies are unbeaten in their last 10 games since starting the season 2-2-1. Stillwater matured quickly with a combination of experienced seniors and several young players and it has not used the same starting lineup since tying Cedarburg 2-2 on Sept. 6. Since losing to Brookfield East a day later, the Ponies have outscored their past 10 opponents by a combined 24-3.
“It was a good night,” Smothers said, noting the players didn’t have anything to celebrate at the time because they were not aware of the outcome in the Roseville game. “We just talked about Park and securing that one seed (for the Section 4AA tourney). We expected to win tonight, but I don’t think the boys were prepared for Park to beat Roseville so we’ll have to have a little celebration for it (on Wednesday). It is a good feeling and I know they’re excited about it.”
Stillwater 1 1 — 2
Forest Lake 0 0 — 0
St — 29:00 — Aropo Ojulu (Charlie Farrington)
St — 59:00 — Ojulu (Nathan Purdie)
Shots — St: 18; FL: 3.
Corner kicks — St: 12; FL: 2.
Goalie saves — St: Erik Meitz 1; FL: Kennan Patterson — 12.
Stillwater 1, Hudson 1
At Hudson, Wis., the Ponies remain winless in three games against Wisconsin teams this fall after playing Hudson to a 1-all tie in Saturday’s nonconference boys’ soccer game in wet and sloppy conditions.
Stillwater (9-2-3) fell to 0-1-2 against teams from the Badger state, but are a more respectable 10-1-1 against teams from Minnesota.
In Wisconsin teams typically play two 10-minute overtimes, but the coaches decided before the game if it remained tied after regulation they would call it a draw and that’s what occurred.
“It was a good game, but a big difficult for both teams because of the wet surface,” Stillwater coach Jake Smothers said. “It was sloppy out there, but both teams played good, solid soccer. The ball was on the ground a lot and it was pretty exciting with a lot of activity around both goalies, but obviously not a lot of goals. It was a good, competitive game.”
Nathan Purdie scored for the Ponies nine minutes into the second half on an assist by Patrick Allan.
The Ponies had not allowed a goal in their previous five games, but were unable to make Purdie’s goal stand up as the Raiders tied the game in the 55th minute.
“It was a game we had hoped to win, but it’s one of those things we can learn from,” Smothers said. “Their goal came on a mental mistake by a couple of players that led to a transition.”
Stillwater 0 1 — 1
Hudson 0 1 — 1
St — 49:00 — Nathan Purdie (Patrick Allan)
Hud — 55:00 — NA