The first tough tests of the boys soccer postseason will unfold this weekend.
On Friday, Gibault will face rival Columbia at 6 p.m. at Oerter Park in the title game of the Class 1A Gibault Regional. On Saturday, Althoff and Marquette will clash at 7 p.m. in the championship tilt of the Class 1A Metro-East Lutheran Regional.
Gibault has enjoyed a quality season under Matt Reeb, already owning two wins over Columbia, one over Southwestern Conference champion Belleville West, one over Belleville East and two over Marquette. The Hawks also have ties against O'Fallon and Edwardsville.
Althoff, meanwhile, has come into its own under second-year mentor Bernie Thebeau. The Crusaders have won eight of their last nine, the only blemish being a tie against Gibault. Donovan Gagen has been an offensive force with 17 goals and seven assists. Nick Harper has nine goals and 10 assists.
The winners of the Gibault-Columbia match and the Althoff-Marquette game will meet in the Columbia Sectional semis at 7 p.m. Wednesday. In the other semi, the winner of the Mater Dei Regional, Mater Dei or Harrisburg, will play the winner of the Central Regional, Freeburg or Central.
Freeburg also is hot with six wins in its last seven contests. Justin Livers leads the Midgets' attack with 13 goals. Mitch Buerck has 11 shutouts in the nets.
Most of the squads in Class 2A and 3A begin the postseason next week. They should be interesting, with West, O'Fallon and Edwardsville fighting to advance.