by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River soccer team was challenged by their coach to prove something by beating Wayzata on Tuesday evening.
“He said we need to prove we are better than we were last year, and this game will help us do that,” related goalkeeper Cody Christ.
The Elks came through with a 1-0 victory at home over a team usually among the metro area’s best. The Elks improved to 3-0 and dropped Wayzata to 1-2. Last year, the Elks lost to the Trojans 4-1.
“It’s a huge upset for us,” said coach Tom Olson. “Wayzata’s got guys who play at high levels all summer. The whole team is very talented.”
Joey Benz scored the lone goal, off a feed from Storm Heyer, on a play started at midfield by Nelson Valdez, in the 52nd minute.
“Honestly, we had one chance to score, and we made it count,” said Olson.
Valdez got the ball, stumbled a bit, and Heyer took it over, bringing it down the side. Benz flew up the middle of the field and was there for Heyer’s crossing pass at the six-yard marker. He slid the ball to the left of the goalkeeper.
“A defender came up to Storm, and he played the ball across,” said Benz. “It was an easy tap-in for me.”
The Elks have beaten Brainerd 2-1 and Buffalo and Wayzata each 1-0, managing three wins from just four goals.
Olson said the entire defense from forwards back executed their tasks against Wayzata.
“We kept everything outside, and Cody was able to get a good look at every shot,” he said.
Christ made a few saves, none of them too difficult.
Christ, with the best seat in the house to watch the defenders, noted, “They are going a good job passing the ball around, and keeping possession, and marking up, and shifting the ball.”
He added, “Now all we need is more goal-scoring. More than just one a game.”
The Elks were 6-4 in conference last year and 9-9 overall. They graduated their best scorers. and haven’t mustered much offense yet, but they are 3-0.
“We started to click early, and we are clicking now, and heading in the right direction,” said Benz.
Next for the Elks is the conference opener at Andover on Thursday, 7 p.m.
Benz, a junior, broke his jaw a month ago in a collision while playing with the TRSA U16’s C1 team in the state MYSA finals.
“It feels a lot better now, than when it was wired shut,” said Benz.
Benz, whose jaw movement is still limited, remembers being woozy and that his jaw was “out of line when” he got up after the collision that day. He still played 15 more minutes of the 3-1 loss to Blaine before having to sit down.