Eagles advance to sectional final; Hawks fall

At right, Columbia’s Casie Wood passes to a teammate Tuesday at home against Mater Dei in the sectional. (Kermit Constantine photo)

The Columbia girls soccer team finished the regular season with a 6-10 record, but those losses came to some of the top teams in the area, including several St Louis powerhouses. The experience is finally paying off — and at the perfect time.

With Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over Mater Dei, Columbia advanced to the championship game of their own sectional. Though both teams had scoring chances early, it was Columbia who found the score sheet first, scoring 10 minutes into the game. Senior Rachel Ribolzi sent a perfect corner kick to Lauren Tolan, who nodded it into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.

Fifteen minutes later, the Eagles scored again on another corner from Ribolzi. This time, the senior found the foot of Madelyn Juenger, who booted it across to give her team a commanding 2-0 lead going into halftime.

With a comfortable lead, Columbia relied on its defense in the second half. Mater Dei had several chances to get back into the game, but goalkeeper Allison Riddle and the Eagles defense were up to the task, quickly foiling every opportunity. In the end, Columbia was simply too strong for Mater Dei, as the Eagles wore down the Knights to earn the shutout victory.

Columbia’s opponent in the sectional title game Friday night will be Alton Marquette, who escaped with a 2-0 victory over Gibault in the other sectional semifinal, ending the Hawks’ season. It was the second time this season the Explorers and Hawks faced off, with Marquette coming away with a 2-0 win on April 29. Though the score was the same, this game was much more evenly played. Gibault came out with energy and established control early on, just missing on several good scoring opportunities. The Explorers regained some control, and had a few chances of their own, but both defenses stood strong, and the teams went to halftime deadlocked at zero.

Marquette wasted no time capturing the momentum after the break, scoring just 40 seconds into the second half. The rest of the game would be about defense. The Explorers had several chances to build on their lead, but the Gibault defense stood strong, and Hawks goalkeeper Kendra Davis made some great saves to keep her team in the game.

The Marquette defense was just as good. Gibault tried again and again for the equalizer, but could not break through the back line.

Finally, with five minutes remaining, Marquette put the game away. With the Hawks pushing up in an attempt to tie the game, the Explorers were able to get a breakaway goal to make it 2-0. Despite the deflating goal, the Hawks fought until the very end, but it wasn’t enough.

Gibault finished its season with a final record of 10-11-1.

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