by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
One year removed from their undefeated dream season, the Rogers Royals are not unscathed in 2011 but remain a force, even with three of their 2010 stars having moved on to college teams.
The Royals (6-4) scuttled Elk River 3-1 on Saturday in their annual District 728 border battle at Elk River, getting a goal from each of their big guns, Jessica Bianchi and Gabby Moter, and one from defender Tessa Quintaville.
Emily Lewis had the goal for Elk River (3-8-1).
The Royals took some blows early in the season, with losses to Class AA teams Maple Grove, Wayzata (twice) and Minneapolis Southwest in which they were outscored 10-1.
“It was hard, losing our undefeated record,” said Bianchi. “But it’s been real fun seeing how everyone (new) plays and now we are connecting with the younger girls … Our first game was rocky (3-0 loss to Maple Grove) but we are steadily improving.”
Rogers’ enrollment bumped them up to Class AA this year, after winning the Class A state crown in 2010. In fact, they’ll play in the section that Elk River has won the last two years.
“It’s a new year, and we knew the competition would be tougher,” said Holly Sutton, the ex-Elk star who coaches Rogers, “but as long as the girls know they are playing with 100 percent effort, whatever the result, they are OK with that.”
Asked to grade her team so far, she said: “”We have good depth. When replacement players replace the starters, they are doing just fine.”
In the nets for Rogers is senior Jacqueline Zoubek, back in action after missing the second half of last year’s state championship season with a broken leg suffered in a collison.
Zoubek said it’s great to be back but she had to excise one demon.
“Getting back at Monticello was the biggest thing for me,” said Zoubek. “That’s who it happened against last year. We beat them (2-1) on Tuesday, so that’s all in the past now.”
Moter scored in the first half, off a through ball delivered by Bianchi.
Lewis scored for the Elks in the first half on the prettiest play of the day. The goal was set up by Logan Daulton, who sped down the sideline and made a perfect cross to the far post, which Lewis headed back across the goal inside the other post.
But that would be it for the Elks.
“We put some heat on them most of the second half but we didn’t finish and they did,” said coach Brian Steuter.
The Royals took a 2-1 lead early in the second half when Quinterville scored in a scramble near the net.
Rogers opened a 3-1 lead when Elk goalie Brienna Dehkes gave up an empty-net goal after being kicked in the midsection while trying to grab a ball about 10 feet from the goal. She crumbled on the ground while Bianchi pounced on the ball for an easy goal.
“The ball pops out and their best player is right there, so that’s a sure goal,” noted Steuter.
The Elks will play at Osseo on Monday evening, 5 p.m. Next for Rogers is a game at Becker on Tuesday, 5 p.m.