Area girls soccer teams kick into action

The 2014 girls soccer season got off to a thrilling start last week, highlighted by a pair of local rivalry matches in the Metro Cup Tournament.

First, Gibault and Columbia wasted no time renewing their rivalry in the tournament opener on March 17. The game was a rematch of last season’s regional championship game, won by Gibault.

As expected, the contest was a tough battle that came down to the very end. The Hawks emerged from the fracas with a riveting 1-0 victory on penalty kicks.

Regulation play was defined by defense. Both defenses held strong against opposing attacks. Experiencing some first-game jitters, Gibault was slow to get things going offensively and defenders Allison Murphy and Casey Wood helped Columbia clamp down on any opportunities the Hawks had.

Gibault’s defense was equally staunch. The Eagles, led by Lauren Kempf, were very quick, and that speed led to several opportunities — including two breakaways — but Hawks goalkeeper Kendra Davis was up to the task, making some clutch saves to keep the game scoreless.

All other scoring opportunities for Columbia were thwarted by the Hawks defense, and the two teams remained deadlocked through the remainder of regulation and overtime.

The Hawks went first in the shootout, and junior Hannah O’Neill converted. Lauren Tolan’s shot missed high and over the net for Columbia, giving Gibault a 1-0 lead after round one.

Sophomore Maddie O’Neill went next for Gibault, and she made her kick. Columbia’s Rianna Probst answered with a score of her own, making it 2-1 Gibault in the shootout.

Columbia tied things up in round three when Madelyn Juenger converted her penalty following a Lizzie Kuerz miss.

The tide started to turn in Gibault’s favor in the fourth round, starting with Courtney Olson’s penalty score. Rachel Ribolzi stepped up for the Eagles, but her shot was denied by a great save from Davis, who was “exceptional,” according to Hawks coach Matt Reeb.

Gibault senior Bree Hasenstab’s fifth-round penalty missed, giving Columbia one final chance to stay in the game, but Allison Ford missed as well, sealing the victory for the Hawks.

For Reeb, it was the perfect start to the season.

“It’s always nice to beat a rival no matter what point in the year,” he said. “Columbia is a very good team, so it showed a few things we need to fix early on.”

The Hawks kept the positive energy going in the next game, defeating Collinsville 3-0 in the second round game of the tournament. Olson scored twice, and Hasenstab added another in the victory.

Over the weekend, however, Gibault’s fortunes changed. The Hawks lost two straight hard-fought contests, 3-0 to Edwardsville and 2-0 to O’Fallon.

Reeb felt the opening week was positive overall, but sees plenty of room to grow and improve.

“I always tell the girls that the season is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “We are happy for what we have done, but know that there is still work to be done.”

Columbia, meanwhile, bounced back from the tough loss to Gibault with a 4-1 win over Freeburg, before meeting up with Waterloo in another fierce rivalry game. The Bulldogs, boosted by goals from Hope Elliot and Sydney Ratz, came out on top, 2-1.

Following the loss, the Eagles’ second straight to a rival, Columbia coach Steve Ross pointed to finishing as his team’s top concern.

“We have to be able to finish our goal-scoring opportunities,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of good things and creating a lot of quality chances, but our record doesn’t show it.”

On the other side, Waterloo’s victory capped a strong ending to the first week of the season.

The Bulldogs kicked off the year with a tough 1-0 loss to Althoff. They bounced back the next day with a 2-1 comeback win over Belleville East. Elliot and Sydney Metzger scored in the victory.

Coach Chad Holden was pleased with his team’s start.

“The team played really hard throughout the tournament,” he said. “We were able to work on some different formations and we have a better idea now on which ones the girls are comfortable with playing.”

Waterloo hosted Civic Memorial on Tuesday. Columbia hosted Edwardsville and Gibault traveled to Notre Dame on Tuesday.

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