The Waterloo soccer team is on fire.
After an up-and-down start to the season, the ‘Dogs have won five straight games, and don’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.
One of the most impressive wins came last Tuesday against Freeburg. Waterloo wasted no time establishing their dominance, as Cole Kaiping scored on a rocket volley shot just 39 seconds in. Four minutes later, Tyler Begis cleaned up a rebound in the box to make it 2-0.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better start in that game,” head coach Chad Holden said. “It’s nice to get early leads because you get some confidence and other teams need to start coming at you a little more when they are down. It tends to open the game up a bit, which is something we play well against.”
Indeed, the Bulldogs took advantage as the Midgets tried to push up to get back in the game. With 13 minutes left in the first half and the ‘Dogs in the Freeburg box, Clay Metz settled a bouncing ball and sent a laser into the back of the net. The goal gave Waterloo a 3-0 lead at half, and the Bulldogs would go on to win 4-1 with Kane Osterhage adding a goal in the second half.
Two nights later, the ‘Dogs hosted Mascoutah and earned another commanding victory. Osterhage, Begis, and Metz gave Waterloo a quick 3-0 halftime lead, and the defense preserved the shutout with a dominant performance.
The Bulldogs had to get up bright and early for their next match, a 9 a.m. Saturday start against Jerseyville at home. Waterloo showed no signs of sleepiness, however, notching a 4-2 win to stay red hot. Begis, Osterhage, and Ethan Lewis provided the offense.
Holden is extremely pleased with the way his team is playing. The head coach insists that balance and chemistry have been the key to the winning streak.
“The great thing about this team is we have no superstar,” he said. “Everyone on the team is pitching in and playing important roles and getting the job done. We have been scoring goals from a variety of players, the midfielders are controlling the play and our defense has only given up one
goal in the last four games and that was a penalty kick. Our goalies have done a great job also of starting our attacks when they have to make a save.
“We feel we have a very good team when we play a full 80 minutes.”
The ‘Dogs will look to continue their hot streak, but some big challenges lie ahead this week. Waterloo has important match-ups against conference rivals Highland (Tuesday) and Triad (Thursday).
The Eagles had another perfect week, improving their season record to 6-0.
Last Tuesday, the Eagles visited conference rival Breese Central and left with a 3-0 victory. Adam Becker, Scott Gannon, and Ryan Gudeman provided the scoring.
Two nights later, Columbia hosted Lebanon. The Eagles would not mess around in this match, jumping out to a 6-0 halftime lead. Columbia added another tally in the second half to make it a 7-0 final. Matthew Roderick and Cameron Roth each scored twice, and Becker, Gannon, and Sam Harres also found the net.
Despite the unbeaten start, Eagles head coach Jason Mathenia is keeping his team concentrated on the challenges ahead.
“The phrase ‘perfect season’ hasn’t been addressed,” he said. “We’re focused on taking everything one game at a time. If we go unbeaten, that’s great. That’s a plus. But we’re a lot more focused on success in the playoffs than on a perfect season.”
If the Eagles are to play at their highest level, Mathenia says they will need to treat every game in the same way. That includes Tuesday evening’s clash with archrival Gibault, who eliminated Columbia in last year’s playoffs.
“The message we send to our players is to take every opponent like it’s your toughest opponent,” Mathenia said. “Yes, it’s a rivalry game, but we need to maintain our composure and our sharpness and treat it like any other game.”
After taking on Gibault on Tuesday, Columbia visits Valmeyer on Thursday.
Last Saturday, the Hawks made their way up north to play Quincy Notre Dame in a rematch of last fall’s supersectional championship (a 1-0, penalty kick victory for Gibault).
The Raiders would get their revenge, using a second-half goal explosion to down the Hawks, 4-1.
The first half was much like last year’s playoff game, as both teams had chances but neither could find the net. The teams stood tied 0-0 as the halftime buzzer sounded.
The second half was a completely different affair, as QND erupted for four unanswered goals. Gibault’s Jake Rueter scored in the final minute to get his team on the board, but it was too late.
Though the Hawks were not full strength in the second half due to injuries and cards, head coach Matt Reeb had nothing but praise for his opponent.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Quincy Notre Dame,” he said. “They are a very good team and they put it to us in the second half.”
Gibault will need to regain their confidence quickly, as the Hawks have a big week with games against rival Columbia and St Pius. Reeb says his team won’t get distracted by the game against the Eagles.
“We just have to regroup and focus on the task at hand,” he said. “I think the boys are excited for this week and the rivalry, but I feel we are composed. They realize it is just one game and (know that) my expectations for them is that they control their emotions and play focused.”
Valmeyer had just one game this past week, but it was a thriller.
The Pirates faced off against Valley Park and came away with an exhilarating 2-1 victory in overtime. Seniors Matt Hemenway and Hunter Brewer, Valmeyer’s dynamic duo, scored a goal apiece in the win, helping their team improve to 4-4 on the year.
Head coach Neil Siburt is impressed with the strides his team is making. Most notably improved, he says, is team chemistry.
“We have done a better job of late working as a team and using the whole field,” he said. “Our defense is starting to communicate much better and it has shown in the last few games.
The Pirates, who played East Alton-Wood River on Monday, will also face off against Affton and Columbia this week.