Eagles, Hawks advance to regional finals

From left, Gibault seniors Mackenzie Redohl, Rachel Kuerz, Lizzie Kuerz, Sarah Kuester and Hannah O’Neill are honored as part of senior night following Wednesday’s regional win.

It was a tense and at times frustrating match, but in the end, the Columbia Eagles got the result they wanted.

The top seed in their own regional, Columbia dominated possession and created plenty of scoring chances but failed to convert, but eventually prevailed for a 3-1 victory over fourth-seeded Wesclin in Tuesday evening’s Class 1A regional semifinal game at Columbia High School.

The Eagles got on the board just four minutes into the game. Senior Hannah Heller blew past three defenders and dribbled into the box before slotting a perfect through ball to classmate Lauren Kaempfe, who pounded it home for the 1-0 lead.

Columbia’s dominance continued after the goal, as the Eagles controlled possession and played staunch defense. Wesclin barely was able to move the ball past midfield for the first 20 minutes of the game.

But the Warriors’ fortunes quickly changed. A misplayed ball in the Eagles’ zone led to a great look on goal for Wesclin, and the Warriors forward capitalized on the opportunity, firing a rocket past CHS goalkeeper Alison Riddle to knot the score at 1-1 with 18 minutes to play in the first half.

Columbia responded quickly, putting together several opportunities in the minutes following the tying goal, but still the Eagles could not convert, and the teams went into the break all square.

CHS finally broke through 12 minutes into the second half. Kaempfe took a pass from a teammate, beat two defenders, and shot the ball past the Wesclin keeper for her second goal of the night, giving the Eagles a 2-1 lead.

CHS didn’t let up after taking the lead, as the Eagles continued to apply pressure, looking for the clinching goal. After several close misses, sophomore Blair Wittenbrink put the game away with six minutes remaining, blasting a rebound into the back of the net.

Columbia will play Althoff on Friday night at 6 p.m. at Columbia High School.

The Gibault Hawks had no trouble with their regional semifinal opponent, breezing past Harrisburg by a score of 7-0 on Wednesday at Oerter Park. Both Columbia and Gibault are hosting their own regionals.

The Hawks dominated from start to finish to advance, scoring early and often while controlling possession and stifling the Harrisburg attack.

After several great chances in the opening minutes, Abbie Phelps put the Hawks on top with 28 minutes left in the first half. After receiving a phenomenal pass from Maddie O’Neill, Phelps fired a rocket into the back of the net to give her team a 1-0 lead.

Four minutes later, Lizzie Kuerz doubled her team’s advantage. The senior co-captain swept through a slew of defenders before slipping the ball past the Harrisburg keeper and into the right corner.

Junior Carley Olson made it 3-0 with 20 minutes remaining, scoring on a breakaway off of a pass from classmate Abby Hasenstab.

Minutes later, it was Hasenstab who found the back of the net. The junior forward drew a penalty kick when she was brutally taken down in the Harrisburg goalbox. Hasenstab recovered from the clash, calmly burying her penalty shot to the left side.

Before the Bulldogs could blink an eye, the score as 5-0, as Olson scored her second of the night on a rebound.

Though the game was well in hand, the Hawks weren’t done yet. Gibault added another goal at the end of the first half and tallied their seventh and final goal early in the second half, cruising to victory.

With the win, the Hawks advance to Saturday morning’s regional championship game against Anna Jonesboro. Game time is 11 a.m. at Oerter Park.

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