Gibault girls soccer head coach Matt Reeb couldn’t have imagined a better birthday present.
On the fifth-year coach’s 29th birthday, his Hawks defeated rival Columbia 1-0 in a thrilling penalty shootout Tuesday night to advance to the Class 1A sectional final at Columbia High School.
“I told them before the game, ‘If you want to get me a birthday present, beat Columbia tonight,’” Reeb joked after the game.
The Hawks made Reeb’s wish come true, overcoming a slew of injuries and shutting down a potent Columbia offense to earn an unforgettable victory.
The first half featured no goals, but plenty of action. The cross-county rivals went back and forth, battling for possession and momentum. Both teams had scoring opportunities, but the defenses were up to the task, clearing the ball out of the danger zone. Whenever it seemed one side was about to take over, the other side put together their own string of scoring chances.
The best opportunity of the first half for either team came in the 26th minute, when Columbia senior midfielder Lauren Tolan found space and fired a rocket on goal. The ball appeared destined for the back of the net, but Gibault sophomore goalkeeper Kelly Dooley made a lunging one-handed save to keep the Eagles off the board.
The Hawks and Eagles continued to trade scoring chances, but neither could find the net. The scoreboard was all zeroes as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Both sides came out strong in the second half, generating quality scoring chances, each of them knocked away by the opposing defense.
As time ticked down, the intensity—and physicality—picked up, each team working desperately to find the back of the net. Though there was plenty of end-to-end action, neither defense caved to the pressure.
The Eagles started to gain some momentum late in the game. With 13 minutes remaining in regulation, sophomore Morgan Glaenzer found a hole in the Hawks backline and took off on a breakaway. As the Gibault defense closed in, Glaenzer blasted a low shot that went just wide.
One minute later, Columbia had another close miss, as Dooley robbed freshman Taylor Parks with another great save.
Columbia had one more incredible chance at the end of regulation, when Glaenzer made a run on goal. A Gibault defender hustled back to break up the play, knocking Glaenzer down in the process. No foul was called, and the rivals headed to overtime still deadlocked at 0-0.
The Eagles controlled the action in the first overtime period, forcing Dooley to come off her line and make several more nice stops. Columbia had another spectacular opportunity with five minutes left when Blair Wittenbrink played a dangerous cross into the Gibault box, but the Hawks defense was there to break up the play. The scoreboard remained blank as the game headed into a second overtime.
The Eagles continued to dominate possession in the second OT, firing shot after shot at Dooley. The sophomore goalie stood strong in net, parrying away each opportunity. Columbia had yet another unbelievable chance with two minutes left, but the ball was cleared off the line by a Gibault defender. The Hawks withstood one final onslaught from the Eagles and the teams headed to a penalty shootout to determine who would advance to the sectional final, and who would go home.
Junior defender Robyn Lindsey stepped up first for Gibault, burying her penalty to the right corner. Tolan converted her shot as well, nestling it into the left side.
In the second round, freshman Abby Phelps made her penalty for the Hawks and Lauren Kaempfe answered for the Eagles. The third round was similar, with Carley Olson converting for the Hawks and Madelyn Juenger nailing her shot for the Eagles.
Gibault junior Abby Hasenstab started the fourth round of penalties by tucking a nifty shot into the left corner. Parks was next for the Eagles. The freshman’s low liner just missed the net, clanging off the post.
With a chance to send her team to the sectional final, Gibault senior co-captain Lizzie Kuerz stepped to the spot. Not at all fazed by the moment, Kuerz calmly slotted her penalty to the left side, setting off a wild celebration for the Gibault faithful.
After the game, an ecstatic Kuerz expressed her faith in herself and in her teammates.
“After the first overtime, we just said we’ve got to play defensively and get to PKs, because we’ve been practicing PKs for a long time,” Kuerz said. “We wanted to take them. We were confident in our PKs.”
Though Kuerz was the one who made the final shot, she gave credit to Dooley, who was superb in net.
“Kelley Dooley is the reason we won this game,” she said. “I’m giving this whole game to her. She was our saving grace throughout this whole game.”
Excited as she was, Kuerz quickly switched her focus to the next challenge. The Hawks will play Alton Marquette for the sectional title on Friday at 6 p.m. in Columbia. For Gibault, it’s the next step on what hopes to be a long journey.
“We want to go to state,” Kuerz said. “From the beginning of the season, we’ve been set on state.”
The Waterloo High School girls soccer team began Class 2A regional play Tuesday night at home and topped a familiar foe in conference opponent Highland.
The Bulldogs won 2-0 and will face conference nemesis Triad on Friday night at 5 p.m. Triad blasted Mascoutah 8-0 to advance. The Bulldogs lost twice to Triad in the regular season, including a narrow 1-0 defeat at Triad on May 12.
Emma Novack and Erika Lloyd scored goal for the Bulldogs in Tuesday’s win.