COLUMBIA — It will be a battle of Monroe County rivals in the championship game of the Class 1A Columbia Regional.
Top-seeded Gibault and third-seeded Columbia will collide at 11 a.m. Saturday after each recorded semifinal victories.
Gibault defeated fourth-seeded Freeburg 2-1 on a late --and strange --goal by junior Courtney Olson. Columbia tallied a pair of second-half goals by sophomore Lauren Tolan and junior Rachel Ribolzi in its 2-0 win over second-seeded Althoff.
Gibault and Columbia met one other time this season, with Gibault defeating the Eagles 3-1 on April 8 in Waterloo.
"This is really the first game all season where everybody was back about as close to 100 percent as we could get," said Eagles coach Steve Ross, whose team improved to 10-9. "The team was ready. We've shown glimpses (of potential) all season, but it's been coming together late in the season, which is the important time.
"They really gave it up for each other. It wasn't any one player that had to carry the load. ... We kept going and kept pushing, and the backfield was very solid tonight."
Tolan scored her 10th goal of the season at 42 minutes, 56 seconds, hitting a left-footed shot from inside the box that sailed inside the right post. Ribolzi scored her third goal of the season at 73:28, converting from about 15 yards out after her initial shot caromed off sophomore teammate Ashley Myers.
Althoff (11-9-1) was robbed on several occasions by freshman goalkeeper Alison Riddle, but the Crusaders also were unfortunate. They hit the crossbar or post on three occasions, including once when freshman Payton Seibel's bid to tie the game ricocheted off the left post midway through the second half.
Three minutes later, Riddle tapped out a shot by senior Alexis "Baby" Jones. Columbia cleared the ensuing corner kick.
"Columbia played a good game. They won and did a great job out there," Crusaders coach Juergen Huettner said. "We hit three posts and crossbars ... and the goalkeeper came up with two tremendous saves. We had six or seven quality chances.
"But the bottom line is Columbia played tight defense and kept us off the scoreboard. They scored two goals themselves and it should be a nice regional championship game Saturday between Gibault and Columbia. They played well and deserve to play Saturday."
It was Althoff's seventh shutout loss of the season.
"We got kept off the scoreboard too often," Huettner said. "We didn't have (the firepower) this year. Payton Seibel did a good job, but Alexis never was 100 percent all season."
Jones hit the crossbar with a blistering shot in the 29th minute, a sign of things to come for the Crusaders.
Junior Rachel Kaltwasser's shot hit off the football crossbar in the 45th minute --less than two minutes after Columbia took a 1-0 lead.
"The goalpost was our friend tonight," said Ross, whose team also defeated Althoff 2-0 on April 25 in Columbia. "Last time we played them, the goalpost was our friend that night, too. It was a little bit more so tonight."
Gibault 2, Freeburg 1
Freeburg (13-9-1) led 1-0 on a first-half goal by freshman Emilie Blomenkamp.
But the Hawks (11-5) tied it on freshman Carley Olson's header on a corner kick by sister Courtney Olson at 64:17, and Courtney Olson delivered a weird game-winner when her 40-yard kick toward the Midgets goal bounced off the turf and into the net.
"They had a goal kick and it hit off my chest," Olson said. "I just kicked it. I tried to get it up to our forwards. I looked and everyone was saying, 'It's bouncing, it's bouncing,' and it went right in.
"No one does that at the high-school level. I couldn't believe that at all. After it went in, all I felt was my teammates hugging me the entire time. I couldn't believe it."
Freeburg freshman goalie Taylor Henschen, who made three exceptional saves, had come off her line and was at the top of the box when the Olson's miracle attempt went in.
"That's soccer for you," Gibault coach Matt Reeb said. "Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn't."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.