PARK 2, EAST RIDGE 1
The Park and East Ridge girls' soccer game was more than just a game on Thursday night. It was centered around honoring Jeff Lindblom, who is battling Lymphoma.
The two teams came together before the game to take a photo and show their support for Lindblom. The girls wore green during the game to show their support to finding a cure for this disease and also show their support in Lindblom's fight with cancer.
"We were honored to have Jeff come to our game on Thursday and allow us to show our support for him and his family," said Park co-head coach Stacy Paleen. "This type of night allowed us as coaches and players to realize that soccer is just a game and there are much bigger things going on in life. We want to wish Jeff and his family nothing but the best as they continue fighting this disease."
The green worn by both teams on Thursday night must have been a good sign for the green Wolfpack team as Park took advantage of a few plays and were able to win the game 2-1.
Park had a rough game on Tuesday night with a 7-0 loss to White Bear Lake, but Paleen said the girls shook off that loss quickly and focused on trying to beat the Raptors. There was a lot of respect given to Tim Bunnell and the East Ridge team due to the talent of their players, but the girls were psyched for this night.
The scoring started for Park in the first half as Kenzie Harer connected to make it a 1-0 lead for the Wolfpack. About 20 minutes into the game, East Ridge lost one of its leaders and best players as Maddie Majewski sprained her ankle.
She sat out most of the first half until the Raptors had a corner kick late in the half. Majewski came out for a corner kick and took advantage of it.
Majewski went up and used her head to knock the ball in the back of the net to tie the game up at 1-1 heading into halftime. After the goal, she went back on the bench and never returned to the field.
Bunnell said she couldn't run on the ankle after the header, but he's optimistic she will be ready for the Woodbury game on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
"We had a lot of chances to score and out-shot Park throughout the entire game," Bunnell said. "We just failed to finish our scoring plays with simple mistakes. We will make sure to fix those mistakes as we get ready for Woodbury next week."
The second half was a defensive battle as no team could score for the majority of the 40 minutes. Then, with about five minutes left in the game, Alli Lentz kicked a nice cross to Megan Maloney who kicked it past the goalie for a goal and a 2-1 lead.
Paleen described the last five minutes as intense because East Ridge didn't quit and wanted to tie the game up quickly.
"Our defense played their best soccer all season during those five minutes to end the game," Paleen said. "They had a strong game overall that night and helped us earn the big win over East Ridge."
It was a huge win for the Wolfpack, especially with the night centered around Lindblom. Many of the Park players wanted to get this win for him and they were really excited when that final horn rang in Wolfpack Stadium.
The Park players and coaches hope this win will help with momentum and confidence as the Wolfpack travels to Roseville on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 5 p.m. before heading back home to play Woodbury on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m.
The East Ridge players and coaches will focus their attention on another rivalry game on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. as the Raptors travel to Woodbury before returning home to play Stillwater on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m.
PARK 1, EAST RIDGE 0
The Park boys' soccer team watched the girls' team earn that 2-1 victory before their game and it pumped them up for their crosstown rivalry game against the East Ridge boys' team on Thursday night.
The focus that was shown throughout the entire game started well before the first whistle sounded to start the game. It began in warmups, and while the Wolfpack boys were sitting in the stands watching the girls' game.
"We had a different focus during warmups that night and it translated early in the game," said Park co-head coach Jason Arnebeck. "We had the mindset to win after our close loss to White Bear Lake on Tuesday night."
It was a scoreless first half as the two defenses battled it out. The shutout streak was broken with about eight minutes left in the game as Park found its opportunity to take a shot and capitalized on it.
Charlie Gutzman battled in the box and kicked the ball towards the goal. The ball ended up hitting off the goal post and bouncing back in the right position for Matt Abebrese to kick the ball in for a goal.
That gave Park a 1-0 lead and the Wolfpack defense continued their strong game with a shutout against a top 10 team in the Class AA rankings.
"Our defense had its best game of the season on Thursday night," Arnebeck said. "We knew we had to play our best defense because Tony Bidwell coaches a really good East Ridge team over there. We limited our mistakes on both sides of the ball and our intensity was up for all 80 minutes."
After the loss to Irondale on Sept. 5, Arnebeck said the players were frustrated and slightly embarrassed by the their performance. They picked up the intensity during practice and showed it at the White Bear Lake game on Tuesday.
The Wolfpack weren't able to earn the win against the Bears, but the intensity carried into the East Ridge game on Thursday.
"It was a great game between two good teams," Arnebeck said. "We need to carry that momentum into future games."
Park will travel to Roseville on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. before returning home to take on Woodbury on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 5 p.m.
East Ridge will also be traveling on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 5 p.m. as the Raptors play against rival and undefeated Woodbury. The two teams are currently ranked in the top 10 with the Raptors being No. 10 and the Royals ranked No. 3, according to the Minnesota State High School Soccer Coaches Association. After Tuesday's game, the Raptors will return home against Stillwater on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 5 p.m.