Soccer is a fickle game, capable of producing both jubilation and heartbreak.
Three days after an exhilarating penalty-kick victory over rival Columbia, the Gibault girls soccer team was on the other end of the spectrum Friday evening, falling 2-1 in double overtime to Alton Marquette in the sectional championship game at Columbia High School.
Marquette came out firing in the first half. The heavily favored Explorers dominated possession and put together several quality chances in the early going. Marquette had a nice opportunity in the sixth minute, but Gibault goalkeeper Kelly Dooley came up with a big save, punching the ball away.
The Explorers continued to attack, using speed to create space and generate excellent looks on goal, but the Hawks defense withstood the pressure.
Midway through the first half, Marquette appeared to be well in control, and a score seemed imminent. But one bounce of the ball can change the game, and momentum can swing in an instant. Gibault remained patient despite the Marquette onslaught, and with 18 minutes left in the first half, the Hawks seized their chance. Junior midfielder Maddie O’Neill played a brilliant long ball down the field to classmate Abby Hasenstab. The Marquette goalkeeper rushed off her line and made an incredible play to get a hand on the ball, but the rebound rolled back to Hasenstab, who tapped the ball into an open net to give her team a 1-0 lead.
Stunned by the goal, Marquette revamped their attack, putting mass amounts of pressure on the Gibault backline. The Explorers’ best chance of the half came with nine minutes remaining, when a foul on the Hawks’ Lizzie Kuerz gave Marquette a free kick from just outside the box. The subsequent shot went just wide.
The Explorers had one more chance before the end of the half, but Dooley made another phenomenal stop. The Hawks took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
The tension was notably higher in the second half, as Marquette continued to pound away while Gibault tried desperately to hold on. The increased intensity led to higher pressure and greater physicality, as both sides picked up several fouls. The Explorers tried to score, but the Hawks defense played valiantly, hustling back to break up each play and limit shots on goal.
As time ticked down, the Explorers’ ambush continued; Marquette had every chance to score, but they just could not convert.
The intense game came to a halt with 13 minutes left when Gibault defender Robyn Lindsey suffered what appeared to be a serious injury. Lindsey was able to walk off the field under her own power, but her absence was noted.
The action picked up right where it left off, as Marquette bore down on the Gibault box with unrelenting pressure. The Explorers finally tied the game with just under nine minutes remaining, scoring on a rebound to knot the score at 1-1.
Both teams had their chances in the final minutes, but neither could find the net and for the second straight game, Gibault found itself in overtime.
Marquette appeared to have the momentum heading into the extra session, but the Hawks stayed strong, foiling the Explorers’ opportunities and creating a few of their own. Marquette appeared to take the lead in the final minute of the first OT, but a Gibault defender cleared a ball off the line to save the game and the score remained tied at one goal apiece.
The second OT session mirrored the first, as the Explorers pelted Dooley and the Gibault defense with shot after shot. Despite an incredible effort, the Hawks could only hold on for so long, and with seven minutes left, Marquette broke through for the go-ahead goal as a low shot flew just out of Dooley’s reach and into the net.
Gibault pushed everyone up in the final minutes, looking to equalize, but it wasn’t enough.
After the game, an emotional Matt Reeb spoke about the way his team gave it their all.
“They wanted it,” he said. “They came out and played 100 minutes of strong soccer. We just couldn’t get that extra inch that we needed.”
Despite the crushing defeat, Reeb made a point to praise his team, noting how the girls battled all season through both injuries and a brutal schedule.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a team,” he said. “The way they came around each other and huddled together this year was incredible.”
“These seniors won three straight regional championships and made two sectional final appearances,” Reeb continued. “They will be missed. They gave their all and it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get more.”Waterloo’s Emma Novack works to kick the ball toward the net in second half action on Friday night. (Corey Saathoff photo)
Triad again ends Waterloo’s season
It’s a broken record that won’t stop playing for Waterloo girls soccer fans. The Bulldogs lost to Triad in the regional final on Friday night, 1-0, in a hard-fought game at WHS that really could’ve gone either way.
Waterloo lost three times this season to the Knights, who won their sixth straight regional crown. In fact, the Bulldogs have fallen to the Knights three times each of the past four seasons.
The game remained scoreless until Triad’s Danielle Wilde broke through for a goal past Waterloo goaltender Kathryn Finnerty with nine minutes left in regulation.
Sydney Luedeman had probably Waterloo’s best scoring chance denied by Triad’s goalie in the 11th minute.
Finnerty made several strong saves to keep the Bulldogs in the game, but the Knights prevailed in the end — just like they always seem to do against Waterloo.