NEW BRIGHTON — Nine different players scored a goal and senior Marisa Bonilla struck for four tallies as Stillwater cruised past the Knights for a Suburban East Conference girls soccer victory on Tuesday, Oct. 5 at Irondale High School.
The triumph lifted the fourth-ranked Ponies (7-0-1 SEC, 11-3-1) to at least a share of their second consecutive conference championship with one game remaining. Going into its final regular season game against Cretin-Derham Hall on Oct. 7, Stillwater held a three-point lead over second-place Mounds View (6-1-1, 10-2-2) and White Bear Lake (6-1-1, 10-4-1).
“It’s very rare for a team to win back-to-back because the conference is so competitive,” Ponies coach Mike Huber said. “Doing it two years in a row is a great accomplishment. We knew a win would give us a share, but now the key is we don’t want to share.”
Stillwater is unbeaten in its last 25 conference games, but Cretin-Derham Hall was the most recent SEC team to knock off the Ponies late in the 2019 season.
The Ponies were in control throughout the game against Irondale (0-8-0, 0-13-0), scoring three times in the first eight minutes of play and eventually building a seven-goal halftime lead.
Six Ponies scored their first-ever varsity goals, including Lucy Johnson, Ella Steblay, Maura Christiansen, Lauren Willhaus and even goalkeepers Hadley Johnson and Sydney Gritters, who each scored in the last 15 minutes.
“It was good that a lot of girls got some time,” Huber said. “With as tough a schedule as we’ve played there’s been a lot of games where some girls haven’t had a lot of time and to give them a lot of time was good.”
It was also the ninth shutout in 15 games for the Ponies this season.
After closing out the regular season on Oct. 7, Stillwater will await seeding for the Section 4AAA tournament that begins on Wednesday, Oct. 13. The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 16 and the finals slated for Tuesday, Oct. 19, with the higher seed serving as the host.
Stillwater 7 5 — 12
Irondale 0 0 — 0
St — 4:00 — Brooke Nelson (Nell Smith)
St — 6:00 — Marisa Bonilla (Amelia Bartosh)
St — 7:00 — Bonilla (B. Nelson)
St — 19:00 — Estelle Auleciems (CJ Fredkove)
St — 27:00 — Lucy Johnson
St — 30:00 — Bonilla (Auleciems)
St — 31:00 — Ella Steblay
St — 46:00 — Maura Christiansen
St — 54:00 — Lauren Willhaus
St — 57:00 — Bonilla (Christiansen)
St — 67:00 — Hadley Johnson (Auleciems)
St — 75:00 — Sydney Gritters (Fredkove)
Shots on goal — St: 32; Ir: 0.
Corner kicks — St: 18; Ir: 0.
Fouls — St: 3; Ir: 1.
Goalie saves — St: Sydney Gritters 0, Hadley Johnson 0, Marisa Bonilla 0 and Amelia Bartosh 0; Ir: NA 20.
Centennial 1, Stillwater 0
At Oak Park Heights, facing another tough nonconference opponent, the Ponies fell short in a 1-0 loss to No. 2-ranked Centennial on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Stillwater Area High School.
The loss ended a nine-game unbeaten streak for the fourth-ranked Ponies, whose only three losses this season have come against the teams ranked in the top three, including No. 1 Edina and No. 3 Rosemount.
“Centennial is one of the better teams we’ve played this year,” Ponies coach Mike Huber said. “They had a lot of good players and knocked it around pretty well.”
Stillwater held a 9-4 advantage in shots on goal, but the Cougars (13-1-0) struck for the game’s only goal in the 54th minute when Tatum Trettel scored on a 25-yard breakaway after the ball deflected off a Stillwater player.
“From our end, we had a lot of chances to finish,” Huber said. “Out of our nine shots, I thought eight were very good chances but we just couldn’t finish. We hit it right at the goalkeeper or off a defender and just couldn’t find the net.
“Overall, I thought we played well and definitely played good enough to beat them. We played good enough to win, it was just disappointing we couldn’t put a ball or two in the neet and have a different outcome.”
Stillwater has played all five teams which make up the rest of the top six in the state rankings.
“We’re the only team that can say we’ve played all those teams,” Huber said. “It has prepared us and what I hope is that by playing these teams it prepares us for the playoffs.”
Centennial 0 1 — 1
Stillwater 0 0 — 0
Cen — 54:00 — Tatum Trettel (Lauren Ahles)
Shots on goal — Cen: 4; St: 9.
Corner kicks — Cen: 3; St: 6.
Fouls — Cen: 5; St: 6.
Goalie saves — Cen: NA 9; St: Hadley Johnson 2 and Sydney Gritters 1.
Stillwater 3, East Ridge 2
At Oak Park Heights, Luka Johnson scored two second-half goals to help send the Ponies to a 3-2 Suburban East Conference victory over East Ridge on Thursday, Sept. 30 at SAHS.
Nell Smith opened the scoring for Stillwater in the 35th minute on an assist from Amelia Bartosh. The Ponies took that lead into the intermission and then extended it just two minutes into the second half on the first goal from Johnson.
“That was big,” Ponies coach Mike Huber said. “We took a while in the first half, but to come out early and score again to go up 2-0 I felt pretty confident at that point we’d be fine.”
East Ridge (4-3-1 SEC, 8-5-1) answered in the 55th minute as Jessica Machovec drilled a free kick to pull within 2-1. Johnson struck again for the Ponies, however, five minutes later to provide a 3-1 lead.
Madelyn Poor also scored for the Raptors in the 77th minute, but Stillwater was able to prevent additional scoring chances for East Ridge.
“East Ridge always battles back and it always ends up being closer than it should be,” Huber said. “For conference it was a big game and for sections as well.
“We had some good goals and we also just fought really hard. We fought really hard defensively and we won a lot of the 50-50 balls. The only thing I’d say is that defensively we gave up a couple of goals we shouldn’t have given up, but we put a lot of pressure on East Ridge and got three good goals out of it.”
East Ridge 0 2 — 2
Stillwater 1 2 — 3
St — 35:00 — Nell Smith (Amelia Bartosh)
St — 42:00 — Luka Johnson (Brooke Nelson)
ER — 55:00 — Jessica Machovec (free kick)
St — 60:00 — L. Johnson
ER — 77:00 — Madelyn Poor
Shots on goal — ER: 6; St: 10.
Corner kicks — ER: 1; St: 4.
Fouls — ER: 6; St: 11.
Goalie saves — ER: NA 7; St: Hadley Johnson 4.