Soccer season (finally) kicks off

Marquette goalie Preston Stork (right) looks at the ball in net as Columbia players celebrate in the first half of Monday’s match. Marquette edged the Eagles, 3-2. For more photos from the game, click here. (Corey Saathoff photo)

The high school boys soccer season normally takes place in the fall, but COVID-19 forced a change in plans. It’s a spring sport now, but local teams are just excited at the chance to play.

“We will have a lot of games in a short amount of time, but just getting to play is an awesome feeling for the coaches and players,” Waterloo head coach Chad Holden said. 

Columbia opened its season Monday night at home against rival Marquette, falling 3-2.

The Eagles’ two returning All-Sectional players from last season, Karson Bridges and Jonah James, had a hand – or rather, head – in both goals. 

A throw-in from James led to a header goal by Bridges for Columbia’s first goal. With about three minutes remaining in the contest, Bridges found the net after the ball bounced off the back of James’ head.

Columbia will look to pick up its first win Thursday at home against Lebanon.

The Eagles return a large number of players from last season, and the expectations remain high.

Seniors Tate Schilling (midfielder), Zach Anderson (forward) and Trey Hemminghaus (goalie) are key players.

“We have 16 returning, so we have depth and experience,” Columbia assistant coach Jamey Bridges said. “We had and still have high expectations for them this season.”

Waterloo opens its season Wednesday at Freeburg before battling perennial soccer powerhouse Collinsville on Monday.

The Bulldogs lost quite a few key players from last season’s 19-4-3 squad. 

Top returning seniors with varsity experience are Kyle Stewart and Evan Brown, who will both play midfield along with Tyler Toms. He returns with varsity experience in a variety of positions.  

“This is a junior-heavy team,” Holden said.

Defenders Blake Kloeppel, Harry Tuttle, Nick Mueller and Ian Schrader will provide height and speed in the back line, Holden said. Fellow juniors Zach Lenz, Aidan Brown and Ryan Springer will get midfield action and junior Jake Cooling will be one of the forwards. 

The goalie position will be split by junior Dylan Crump and sophomore Jacob Charron, Holden said. 

“We also expect seniors Luke Davis, Ethan Mitcherson and Mason Hoffman to get valuable minutes,” he said.

Waterloo will play its home games on the fields between Rogers Elementary and the junior high this season due to repairs needed on the high school turf.

Gibault returns Antonio Pepe (midfielder), Mitchell Kohnz (defender), Collin Schmidt (defender), McKenzie Haudrich (forward) and Jacob Feldker (forward) from last season.

Head coach Darryn Haudrich said he expects big contributions from Jackson Goedeke (midfielder), Andrew Feldker (midfielder), Collin Shields (midfielder), Kaleb Hugger (defender), Eli Garcia (defender), Andrew Epplin (defender), Camden Oberkfell (defender) and Nick Chambers (goalie).  

“Expectations for this team remain high despite not being able to compete for a state tournament this year,” Haudrich said. “We are focused on remaining successful in our final year as a 3A team.”  

New assistant coach/JV coach Ryan Haas, a Metro East Lutheran graduate and former teammate of past Gibault coach Matt Reeb at Greenville College, joins Haudrich on the coaching staff.

The Hawks open Thursday at home against Granite City.

Valmeyer doesn’t begin its season until March 25 at Carlyle. A key returning player for the Pirates is senior Nathan Touchette, who scored five goals last season.

To view the 2021 boys soccer schedule for Waterloo, Columbia, Gibault and Valmeyer, click here.

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