‘Dogs win regional title; Eagles lose heartbreaker

The Waterloo girls soccer team smiles after winning the Class 2A Marion Regional title on Friday night. (submitted photo)
The Waterloo girls soccer team smiles after winning the Class 2A Marion Regional title on Friday night. (submitted photo)

The Waterloo girls soccer team blasted Marion on Friday night, 6-0, to win the Class 2A Marion Regional championship.

Sydney Luedeman continued her spring scoring frenzy, netting three goals for the Bulldogs while adding an assist. Erika Lloyd added a goal and four assists for Waterloo (17-3-3).

The Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 40-1 over the past seven games. Luedeman has 28 goals on the season to lead the team and put her among the top goal scorers in the entire St. Louis area.

Waterloo will take on Rochester in the Class 2A Triad Sectional at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Eagles fall just short

Columbia's Blair Wittenbrink scored the team's only goal on Saturday. (John Spytek photo)
Columbia’s Blair Wittenbrink scored the team’s only goal on Saturday. (John Spytek photo)

Call it the “penalty kick curse” for Columbia.

The Eagles lost in heartbreaking fashion in the Class 1A sectional championship at McKendree University on Saturday, falling in penalty kicks to Alton Marquette. It marks the third straight year Columbia has been eliminated in a penalty shootout.

The penalties capped a thrilling back-and-forth game between two talented teams, but the match started slowly. The first half was a scoreless affair. Marquette came out strong, controlling the pace of the game in the Eagles’ half of the field.

Columbia started to gain traction as the half wound down, using its trademark speed to stretch the field, but Marquette’s defense was up to the task. The halftime buzzer sounded and the two sides headed into the break to regroup for the final 40 minutes.

The second half saw a considerable uptick in intensity. Marquette came out on a mission after play resumed, scoring just 16 seconds into the second half. Columbia goalkeeper Alison Riddle got a hand on a Marquette head ball, but an Explorers player was there to clean up the rebound, tapping it in for a 1-0 lead.

The Eagles responded in resounding fashion, knotting the score just seven minutes later. Junior defender Sam Bostick played a perfect ball across to classmate Blair Wittenbrink, who blasted it into the left corner to tie the game.

With the score locked at 1-1, the intensity picked up as the two sides traded scoring chances, looking to gain control. Bostick continued to be a force for CHS, firing several hard shots on net, but each chance was parried away by the Marquette keeper. The Explorers created several opportunities of their own, but Riddle and the Columbia defense stood strong against the Marquette attack.

Back and forth the teams battled, sprinting from end to end in a frantic attempt to find the back of the net. The sides were unable to score, however, and the game headed to overtime.

Columbia controlled the first period of extra time, but could not score. The Eagles pounded away at the Explorers defense, but to no avail. The game remained tied at a goal apiece heading into the second OT.

The second overtime mirrored the first, with CHS creating several opportunities but failing to convert. The final buzzer sounded, meaning the sectional title game would be decided by penalty kicks.

Columbia’s Kaylee Jackson kicked off the first round of penalties with a hard shot to the left corner, but the Explorers responded with a shot that ricocheted off the post and into the goal.

Fae Harrell kicked next for the Eagles, and the freshman forward confidently converted her shot to the left side. Marquette responded once more, and the PKs were tied 2-2.

The pattern continued in the third and fourth rounds, with Taylor Parks and Blair Wittenbrink scoring for CHS, and the Explorers answering each goal.

The game was determined in the fifth round of the shootout. Columbia junior Madelyne Juenger’s shot to the right corner was stopped by the Marquette keeper, and the Explorers converted the ensuing shot to claim the sectional championship and send the Eagles home.

An emotional Eagles head coach Jamey Bridges spoke about the heartbreak of losing in penalty kicks for the third consecutive season.

“I almost feel like petitioning the IHSA to let us keep playing,” Bridges joked. “It’s a team sport and this turns it into an individual sport. You hate losing that way and you hate winning that way, too, but that’s the way it is and that’s the game.”

Bridges was able to find plenty of positives from the game, and hopes to use the loss as a learning experience. 

“To battle back and get the equalizer showed a lot of character,” he said. “But it just didn’t go our way. We’ll come back stronger next year.”

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