Eagles defeat Hawks in regional soccer showdown

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Columbia’s Ryan Gudeman heads the ball away from a Gibault player on Tuesday night. (Greg Stanek photo)

The Columbia High School soccer team has been tormented by rival Gibault over the past few years.

In 2012, the Eagles’ season came to an end against the Hawks, as CHS lost 2-1 in the regional championship game. Last year, the two teams met in the sectional semifinal, and once again it was Gibault who came out on top, winning 3-0 and shutting Columbia out for the first time all year. Earlier this season, the teams faced off, and the Eagles did everything right, only to see their rivals tie the game in the waning minutes.

The two schools were at it again in Tuesday night’s regional semifinal at CHS, and this time, Columbia finally came out on top, winning 1-0 on a cold, misty night.

The Eagles established control early, and got on the board nine minutes into the game. Adam Becker got a foot on a corner kick and played it across to teammate Ryan Gudeman, who knocked it in to give his team the lead.

It was all defense from there, as CHS locked down, limiting the Hawks’ chances and making things easy for freshman goalkeeper Jon Kuebler. Gibault struggled to maintain possession on the wet turf, and went into the half trailing 1-0.

With the wind on their side in the second half, the Hawks turned up the pressure, building momentum behind some quality scoring chances. Ben Mueth and Zach Rueter made several good runs, and Ethan Shields had some good looks on goal, but Gibault could not find the net.

The intensity started to pick up dramatically with about 12 minutes remaining in the game. Gibault all-state defender Andrew Reinholz moved up to forward, and the Hawks began to bear down on the Columbia box. Kuebler and the Eagles defense withstood shot after shot, but still the game was not over.

The final four minutes were chaotic and nerve-wracking, as Gibault had several heart-stopping chances. With just over a minute to play, the Hawks received a corner kick, and athletic goalie Trevor Davis pushed up to take part in the play in a last-ditch effort. But, like they did all night, the CHS defense stood strong, deflecting the ball away from the goal.

One last clearance finally did it, and Columbia held on for a riveting 1-0 victory.

The Eagles advance to the regional championship game to be played Saturday at 6 p.m. CHS will face Freeburg, who stunned top-seeded Althoff earlier on Tuesday night. Though happy with the win, Columbia head coach Jason Mathenia emphasized that it would take focus to avoid becoming the next upset victim.

“Anything can happen in the playoffs,” he said. “Our job now is to prepare for Freeburg on Saturday.”

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