by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Rogers Royals, bidding for a third straight Mississippi 8 soccer title, fell short after being shut out in their final two conference matches.
The Royals lost to the Buffalo Bison 1-0 at home Thursday evening, two days after tying St. Michael-Albertviille 0-0, also at home.
STMA finished 5-0-1 by defeating Cambridge-Isanti 2-0 on Thursday evening. Rogers and Buffalo were each 4-1-1.
“We definitely have had a bit of an offensive slump,” said Royal coach Holly Sutton, “and although our defensive game has stepped up and has been refined, we are becoming too timid on the attack. We created more opportunities against Buffalo than vs. St. Michael.”
Sutton said Rogers is a better team than Buffalo “but unfortunately the game of soccer can enable one mistake from the dominant team to be their defeat. We beat ourselves.”
Asked how his team was able to shut down Rogers, Buffalo coach Steve Doimer said, “Our defenders have been rock solid all year. They have kept us in every game.”
Doimer added that the top teams are so even that it’s almost a coin flip.
“There is so much parity in the conference now,” said Doimer, noting that his team (9-5-1 overall) tied Monticello 1-1 and lost to STMA 1-0 in overtime. “Not only in the conference but in the section, too.”
With Rogers, Buffalo and STMA all in Section 8AA section this year (along with Elk River, Moorhead, St. Cloud Tech, Anoka and Brainerd) there’ll probably be rematches.
Buffalo midfielder Katie Halvorson scored the lone goal with 8:33 left in the match, a grounder from the left side that spurted past several players and goalie Cassidy Stutelberg and just inside the far post.
Rogers had 28 shots but only a few were difficult for Bison goalie Michelle Lang to stop.
The Royals scored one apparent goal late in the first half, but it was nullified by an offside penalty.
Rogers had a 20-game win streak in conference snapped by STMA, and a 21-game unbeaten streak snapped by Buffalo.
The defending state Class A champion Royals, who graduated three D-I players, have not found the offensive groove that they’d like, scoring 35 goals in 15 matches, with five shutouts.
It’s been a tough final week of the regular season as they also lost to Holy Family Catholic 5-2 on Saturday. Their 0-2-1 mark in the last three games, all at home, drops them to 8-6-1 overall.
They will finish the schedule with a match at Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Saturday evening, 7 p.m., and will start sectionals on Thursday.
“Section rankings are going to be very interesting as far as the seeding process goes,” Sutton surmised, “but the regular season is played to prepare for the play-offs, so we will be ready to fix the mistakes we made in the past and make something happen.”