Eagles, Hawks set for sectional soccer showdown

Columbia’s Madelyne Juenger (center) fights for the ball Friday night against Althoff. (John Spytek photo)

Girls soccer rivals Columbia and Gibault will meet again, this time in a Class 1A sectional semifinal set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Columbia High School.

The Eagles won their regional with a 4-0 victory over Althoff on Friday night. The Hawks followed suit with a 4-0 win over Anna-Jonesboro in their regional final on Saturday.

Eagles soar to regional championship

For the first five minutes of Friday’s regional championship game, the Eagles looked lost and out of sorts. CHS flipped the switch after a slow start, rolling to a 4-0 victory over Althoff to claim their second consecutive regional championship.

Althoff came out strong in the opening minutes, controlling possession and putting together several scoring chances. But as they have all season, the Eagles defense stood strong as goalkeeper Alison Riddle made some nice saves and the Columbia backline broke up several opportunities.

Following the early scares, Columbia took control of the game. The Eagles dominated possession, putting on a passing clinic as they created scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity. But the Crusaders were up to the challenge. Althoff’s defense limited the Eagles’ looks on goal, and the Crusader keeper made some phenomenal stops to keep her team in the game.

With 10 minutes to play in the first half, however, the Althoff defense finally cracked. CHS sophomore Samantha Bostick made a fascinating run down the sideline before sending a perfect cross into the box, where senior midfielder Lauren Tolan fired an unstoppable shot past the Althoff goalie for the first goal of the game.

Barely two minutes passed before the Eagles struck again. A takedown at the top of the box led to a free kick for CHS. Tolan’s rocket shot ricocheted off of a defender and bounced to teammate Lauren Kaempfe, whose shot sailed into the roof of the net, giving Columbia a 2-0 lead, an advantage they would take into halftime.

CHS’s dominance carried over into the second half. With a comfortable 2-0 lead and a reliable defense in back, the Eagles continued to attack. With 27 minutes remaining in the game, Columbia was rewarded for their efforts. Blair Wittenbrink played a nifty pass across to teammate Morgan Glaenzer. Surrounded by defenders, Glaenzer snuck a low shot into the left corner to make it 3-0, effectively clinching the game.

Even with a commanding lead, the Eagles offense did not let up. Columbia continued to pressure the Althoff defense. Tolan scored her second goal of the night with two minutes remaining for the fourth and final goal of the evening.

The CHS defense, meanwhile, remained strong, stifling the Crusader offense, helping Riddle earn a shutout victory.

Eagles coach Steve Ross praised his team’s ability to rebound from a slow start.

“In the first five minutes we only got one or two passes and we kind of just relaxed,” he said. “We didn’t play them (Althoff) this season and it’s one of those things that when we play a team we haven’t seen yet, we get a little too excited. Once they settled down they started possessing the ball better. We moved the ball well.”

Ross also applauded his defense, which stepped up once again to preserve the clean sheet.

“They’ve been good all year,” he said. “They’ve had a bunch of shutouts.”

Ross went on the discuss Riddle’s growth between the pipes. Though the Eagles backline made things easy for Riddle, Ross said the junior goalie has been one of the team’s biggest strengths this season.

“She’s been fantastic,” he said. “She’s really matured into a fine keeper. She’s been battle-tested. She’s played Nerinx, Webster Groves, Cor Jesu and all that. Those were matches where she had to step up big. Now she’s ready for those types of challenges.”

Gibault’s Carley Olson sets up for a shot on goal Saturday against Anna-Jonesboro. (John Spytek photo)

Hawks roll to third straight regional crown

It was exactly the sort of start Gibault girls soccer head coach Matt Reeb was looking for.

The Lady Hawks scored three first-half goals en route to a 4-0 victory over Anna-Jonesboro to win the regional championship for a third consecutive year.

“They’re a good team,” Reeb said of the Wildcats. “I told our girls that we couldn’t be relaxed, we had to stay focused. Knocking in those three goals in the first half did that for us.”

Junior Carley Olson opened the scoring in the 12th minute, getting a foot on a rebound and firing a laser into the back of the net.

Gibault continued to pressure after the first goal, and with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Olson scored her second of the day, skillfully sliding the ball past the A-J keeper and into the corner of the goal.

The Hawks would have been plenty comfortable with a two-goal lead, but freshman Abbie Phelps had other ideas. With 21 seconds left before halftime, Phelps floated a long, high, arching shot over the head of the Wildcat goalkeeper to give her team a three-goal cushion heading into the break.

“That third goal before half was huge,” Reeb said. “That helped us to be a lot more relaxed.”

The second half was a mostly uneventful affair. Anna-Jonesboro picked up the pace and found a few good looks on goal, but the Gibault defense was up to the task, breaking up each chance to preserve the shutout. With four minutes remaining, junior Abby Hasenstab tallied her team’s fourth and final goal with a missile from the top of the box.

The Hawks will hope to be as close to full-strength as possible Tuesday at Columbia, as several players are still recovering from injuries sustained throughout the season. That list includes Rachel Kuerz, who missed several games down the stretch with an ankle injury, and Robyn Lindsey, who was injured late in the first half of Saturday’s game.

“We have to get healthy,” Reed said. “We want to have a whole team out there for sectionals.”

As anxious as he was over his team’s health heading into the next round, Reed took the time to soak in the girls’ accomplishment.

“It’s always good to be able to bring home some hardware,” he said. “It’s enjoyable for the girls; it’s enjoyable for me as the coach.”

That being said, the fifth-year head coach doesn’t want the journey to end here, as it has the last three seasons.

“These girls have won three regionals, but they’re hungry for a sectional.”

For our recap of the earlier regional games for both Columbia and Gibault, click here.

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