The girls soccer season is nearing its midway point and some local teams are faring batter than others.
Waterloo is off to a 7-2 start with several strong victories. Gibault has hit a tough stretch in its schedule after starting with three straight victories to claim the Metro Cup, dropping to 3-4. Columbia is 4-3 on the season, having alternated between wins and losses before reeling off two straight victories last week.
Waterloo head coach Chad Holden’s team played twice last week, feeling both the joy of victory and sting of defeat.
Last Monday, Waterloo posted a solid win over Freeburg, with Sydney Luedeman and Dani Maurer each scoring goals.
The next day, however, the Bulldogs suffered a tough loss to conference nemesis Triad. Darby Nugent’s first-half goal wasn’t enough as WHS fell by a score of 3-1.
Despite that defeat, Holden is thrilled with the way his team has started the season.
“I have been very impressed with how we have played so far,” he said. “Being as young as we are, I thought it would take more time but our girls have really stepped it up quickly.”
The young Bulldogs have looked great to this point, something Holden was very excited to acknowledge. Coming into the season, he called his freshman class “maybe the best ever,” and they have not disappointed.
“Sydney Luedeman has scored some nice goals for us and so has Emma Novack,” he said.
“Dani Maurer and Sierra Berg have done a great job defensively for us and Sydney Bockhorn and Haley Heavner have also given us some great minutes.”
A seventh freshman, backup goalkeeper Kate Kennedy, has played well at the JV level.
Waterloo has two important conference games this week, hosting Civic Memorial on Tuesday and Highland on Wednesday.
“Conference games are always a little special because they give our team a chance at some hardware but they are also the teams that we see every year in every sport,” he said. “That is how rivalries are created.”
Gibault has hit a tough stretch in its schedule. The Hawks started with three straight victories to claim the Metro Cup, but have since lost four straight against tough competition to drop to 3-4.
Last Monday, the Hawks dropped a 4-2 contest to St. Pius. Maddie O’Neill scored both goals in the loss.
Although head coach Matt Reeb knows his team has been facing some of the best teams in the area, he still has concerns about its play, noting the girls have plenty to learn.
“We need to have a bigger sense of urgency,” he said. “In both the Waterloo and St. Pius games, we waited until we were down to begin playing harder, and when you play good teams you cannot just turn it on and expect to get results.”
Reeb also pointed out that the team has had a tough time getting accustomed to playing without some of last year’s graduated seniors. Still, he’s confident the girls will adapt.
“They are experienced enough that they will figure out how to adjust,” he said.
Reeb acknowledged strong performances from Carley Olson, Abby Hasenstab and Maddie O’Neill. Meanwhile, Abbie Meyer has emerged as the starting goalkeeper after a string of solid games in net.
“She is constantly getting better, and we are hoping she continues to improve,” Reeb said.
Reeb is eagerly anticipating the return of freshman Abby Phelps, who injured her ankle prior to the start of the season.
“She will definitely give us a lift when she comes back,” he said.
The Hawks kick off a three-game road trip with a visit to Mascoutah on Thursday.
Columbia is 4-3 on the season, having alternated between wins and losses before reeling off two straight victories last week.
The three losses have come to some of the best teams in the area: Belleville East, Marquette and Waterloo.
The Eagles returned to their winning ways last Tuesday with a 7-0 annihilation of Breese Central. Senior superstar Lauren Kaempfe led the way with a hat trick, while Casey Wood added two tallies of her own and Lauren Tolan and Morgan Glaenzer scored a goal apiece.
The Eagles enjoyed another dominant victory Friday evening, crushing Wesclin 8-0.
Glaenzer, Tolan and Lauren Kaempfe each tallied twice, while Taylor Kaempfe and Blair Wittenbrink scored a goal apiece. Alison Riddle pitched her second straight shutout and fourth of the season.
Columbia head coach Steve Ross is pleased with the way his team has started the season, pointing to plenty of positives.
“At this stage, we feel pretty good about the way we’ve played,” he said. “We’re balanced and playing well.”
Columbia’s back line has been strong and sturdy, making it difficult for opponents to score.
“The defense has been strong,” Ross said. “We don’t give up too many good looks—and when we do, (goalkeeper) Alison Riddle is there.”
The CHS offense has also looked efficient, controlling possession and pace of the game.
“We’ve done a great job of possessing the ball,” Ross said. “We move the ball well and we’ve done a nice job of switching fields.”
Columbia’s biggest strength this season, according to Ross, has been its ability to work together and play as a team.
“It’s been a total group effort,” he said. “This group has really worked well as a unit. The individual abilities have gelled so well.”
Among those individuals is Lauren Kaempfe.
“She’s been really versatile,” Ross said. “She opens the floodgates up top. She can obviously score but she’s been a great distributor too. She makes great decisions on the field.”
Kaempfe’s ability to put the ball in the net and create opportunities for her teammates is characteristic of a team-wide approach, one that makes the Eagles extremely deadly on offense.
“We have a really balanced attack,” Ross said. “I’ve been really impressed with the girls’ unselfishness. Everyone is looking to set their teammates up. That makes us really dangerous because we’re difficult to defend.”
The Eagles visit Cor Jesu on Thursday.