After slow starts to the season for Gibault and Columbia, it appeared as though only one of the area girls soccer teams — Waterloo — would live up to their early-season promise. That notion was emphatically dismissed in the last week, as all three teams once again look poised for success.
It was an up-and-down week for Waterloo. First, the team had two home games postponed due to water damage at the school’s turf field (coaches expected the problem to be fixed by this weekend). Then, the Bulldogs lost a tough game to conference rival Triad. The Knights scored two second half goals, and Waterloo was unable to capitalize on its chances. The 2-0 loss was the Bulldogs’ first since the season opener, snapping a six-game unbeaten streak.
“We have had a great start but we also have a lot of season to go,” Waterloo head coach Chad Holden said. “The loss to Triad was a setback, but we also know they are always a very good team year-in and year-out.”
The Bulldogs were able to bounce back from the loss with a 3-1 victory over Mascoutah. Erika Lloyd scored twice and Darby Nugent added another in the win.
On Monday, Waterloo picked up another conference victory by defeating Civic Memorial, 2-1. Lloyd and Jessica Chapman each scored a goal.
The Bulldogs stand at 7-2 overall heading into Thursday’s game against Freeburg. Holden is pleased with the way his team is playing, and certainly has high hopes for the rest of the season, but he stressed the importance of taking things one game at a time.
“We never look ahead, because it could haunt you in a hurry,” he said.
The Gibault girls finally got back to winning last week, notching two convincing victories.
First was a 7-2 blowout win over Roxana. Bree Hasenstab (two goals), Robyn Lindsey (two goals), Lizzie Kuerz, Courtney Olson and Maddie O’Neill all found the net in the victory.
Two days later, the Hawks downed Mater Dei, 2-0. Olson and Lindsey scored the goals.
It was a great week for Gibault, who started the season with two victories before a slew of injuries contributed to a five-game losing streak. The Hawks are now 4-5-1, and with several players returning to health, may finally be hitting their stride.
Head coach Matt Reeb has been especially pleased with the offense, which struggled early in the season. Reeb specifically pointed to Lindsey, who recently moved from wing to forward, as one of the key contributors.
Another encouraging sign is that the two victories came while the Hawks were still down a few players. Reeb expects several important players, including Rachel Kuerz and Carley Olson, to return soon.
Facing a lighter portion of the season schedule, Reeb hopes his team can continue to build confidence in the upcoming weeks before going back to the gauntlet in the final stretch of the regular season.
“We play a tough schedule full of Southwestern Conference teams, but this is the stretch of our schedule where we can begin to gain confidence and get on a roll,” he said.
Columbia has also picked up its play after a slow start. The Eagles followed a win over Notre Dame with a 6-0 scorching of Breese Central. Blair Wittenbrink and Lauren Kaempfe each scored twice, and Madeline Juenger and Kristen Rein added a goal apiece.
Columbia extended the winning streak to three straight games with an 8-1 annihilation of Wesclin. Wittenbrink (two goals), Rianna Probst (two goals), Juenger, Kaempfe, Claire Hausmann, and Rachel Schroeder all scored for the Eagles in yet another commanding victory.
Columbia brought the firepower once again on Monday, unloading goals on Freeburg in a 10-2 blowout. Lauren Tolan scored three goals.
The Eagles’ offense, which struggled early in the season, has exploded in the last week. Head coach Steve Ross says health has been a huge part of the team’s recent success. After early-season injuries shook up the lineup and rhythm, everyone is healthy, and it shows in the field.
“Having everybody back makes us deeper, and allows us to put everyone in their natural positions,” Ross said. “We’ve settled down since the beginning of the season and now we’re playing really, really well.”
Not to be overlooked is Columbia’s defense, which has been stellar.
“The defense has been our unsung hero,” Ross said. “They’ve stood strong and kept us in every game.”
Maintaining the momentum will be no easy task for the Eagles (5-4), who face difficult tests in the coming weeks — including a matchup with St. Louis powerhouse Cor Jesu on Wednesday.
“We have lots of challenges ahead of us,” Ross said. “This stretch will help us see where we are and where we can go.”