WHITE BEAR LAKE — The Stillwater boys’ soccer team kept its Suburban East Conference title hopes alive while closing out the regular season with victories over Mounds View and White Bear Lake, but was relegated to spectator as Roseville and East Ridge determined the league championship on Thursday, Oct. 5.
The Ponies (6-1-1 SEC, 13-1-2) were in line to share the SEC crown with East Ridge (5-1-1, 9-3-1) if the Raptors defeated Roseville in the conference finale. A victory by Roseville (6-1-0, 11-3-1) would make the Raiders conference champs, but a tie would leave them tied atop the standings with Stillwater.
Regardless of how that pans out, the No. 2-ranked Ponies outscored their conference opponents by a combined 25-5 this season.
After losing to Woodbury and playing East Ridge to a tie in back-to-back conference games, Stillwater was pleased to finish strong with consecutive wins before gearing up for the Section 4AA tournament, which begins with the quarterfinals on Oct. 10. Seeding will be announced on Sunday, Oct. 8.
The defending state champion Ponies have a strong case for the top seed, but the section is no pushover with state-ranked East Ridge and Woodbury (5-2-0, 8-3-0) also in the mix.
Stillwater blanked White Bear lake 2-0 in its final regular season game on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
After a scoreless opening half, Spencer Scott tallied his team-leading 16th goal in the 44th minute on an assist from Kyle Ammerman for a 1-0 lead. Ammerman took a pass from Scott and slipped past a defender with the ball headed towards the end line before sliding a crossing pass that Scott tapped in.
“He did a nice job of winning a one-on-one battle on the wing,” Ponies coach Jake Smothers said of Ammerman.
Scott then assisted on a goal by Jack Boucher midway through the second half to provide a two-goal cushion.
“It was not as free-flowing as the Mounds View game, but we did a nice job of moving into positions White Bear wasn’t defending,” Smothers said. “We had some really good chances to score, but we just didn’t do it until the second half.”
Stillwater had to be patient against the defensive-minded Bears, who mustered just three shots in the game and all came from long range.
“We did a really nice job with White Bear defensively,” Smothers said. “We moved the ball well and had some nice looks, but not well-taken shots (in the first half). The transition chances weren’t there for us and the tempo was slower, but we were patient and when we got our chances in the second half we started hitting the goal quite a lot.”
Fred LeClair finished with one save to record the team’s fourth shutout in conference play and seventh overall.
“It capped, for me, a pretty incredible season,” Smothers said. “We were nervous about our scoring power and maturity, but I think that win total — and we still have the playoffs — for this group is just a testament to their character more than their soccer ability. We we lost (from last year) and what we lack has been overcome amazingly by this team to get to 13 wins. I’m very pleased with the young guys who have been patient.”
With a full week off between their final game and the start of the section tournament, the Ponies look forward to an opportunity to rest players dealing with a variety of injuries. Sam Schilling, Jorge Malon, Jack Boucher, Weston McGinley, Kyle Ammerman and Fred LeClair are all dealing with injuries that will benefit from the break.
Stillwater 0 2 — 2
White Bear Lake 0 0 — 0
Stillwater 7, Mounds View 1
At Arden Hills, the Ponies ended a two-game winless streak in impressive fashion while dispatching Mounds View 7-1 on Thursday, Sept. 28.
“We had targeted this game as a bounce back game for the week following up our loss to Woodbury and draw with East Ridge,” Ponies coach Jake Smothers said. “We needed to get back on track in a big way. We were a little unsure going into that game how we were going to respond, but we played fantastic, attacking soccer.”
Nick Smetana didn’t waste any time while scoring for the Ponies in the opening minute on an assist by Spencer Scott.
Stillwater peppered the Mustangs throughout the first half, but remained tied 1-all after Mounds View scored in the 12th minute on a ball that took a fortuitous bounce after the Ponies were unable to clear the ball.
The Ponies shook that off and scored three more times before the intermission. Max Stauffer scored on an assist by Nick Purdie in the 20th minute and Max Timmons scored in the 25th and 30th minute to build a 4-1 lead. Scott and Jorge Malon were each credited with an assist.
“We talked about continuing our offensive pressure, but we didn’t make many adjustments defensively,” Smothers said.
Ben Snyder scored on a header in the 45th minute before Scott and Joseph Young also added goals in the second half as Stillwater expanded its lead. Scott scored on a free kick and freshman Carson Arco assisted on Young’s first goal of the season.
“We created a lot of chances and scored some goals,” Smothers said. “When you look at Woodbury and East Ridge especially, we missed chances to change those results.
“I liked our intent going forward and I’m very proud of our younger players. They come in when we need them and they still stay competitive. They’re deferring to a lot of senior experience, but unless you can overtake players you have to be patient behind this senior class.”
Stillwater 4 3 — 7
Mounds View 1 0 — 1