COLLINSVILLE — A second opportunity awaits the Collinsville High School girls soccer team.
The Kahoks (16-6) will face Normal (18-5-1) in the championship game of the Class 3A Collinsville Sectional at 6 p.m. today. The Ironmen defeated Collinsville 3-1 on April 27 in the Adidas Tournament of Champions in Burlington, Iowa.
However, the Kahoks played that match without five starters: sophomore forward Mikayla McCarthy (separated shoulder), sophomore midfielder Sophie Sharos (concussion), senior defender Alexis Arnold (sprained ankle), junior defender Matty Merlak (broken heel) and senior defender Kassidy Rawdon (injured foot).
All will be in uniform for the rematch, and Collinsville coach Clay Smith expects them to be needed.
"It makes me feel a lot more comfortable," Smith said. "But with that said, they're still a very, very good team. I have all the respect in the world for them and they're going to come here ready to play. It doesn't matter who we have in there. We've got to be prepared to go.
"They were without a couple of players (in the first meeting) as well, so it will be a good match. We're looking forward to it."
The Ironmen feature a spirited attack powered by senior forward Holly Gregory (30 goals, 22 assists), junior midfielder Hannah Rodgers (26 goals, 13 assists) and senior midfielder Alison Seger (15 goals, seven assists).
Gregory, who had two goals in a 3-0 victory over Minooka in the semifinals Tuesday, has signed with Purdue, while Rodgers will attend Illinois State.
"They have a very good player up top in Holly Gregory," Smith said. "She scored two on us in Iowa. They have another girl that's right behind her with 26 goals and another one with 15. So they definitely have some offensive threats like we do."
Normal coach Matt Chapman, in his 12th season, credits Gregory for setting the tone for the Ironmen, who were eliminated 4-0 by Collinsville in the sectional final last year.
"She's a tremendous player," Chapman said. "She's just fun to watch. She's got a great attitude, she's a great leader and she's extremely competitive. She helps everyone rise to another level. She's so good with the ball at her feet and she's not one-dimensional. She's also very good at setting up her teammates."
Senior Kat Roe had two goals and two assists Tuesday in the Kahoks' 4-1 win over Edwardsville in the semifinals. Roe, who has signed with Lindenwood-St. Charles, has scored in her last eight postseason games and has 22 goals and 11 assists this season.
"Obviously, they know Kat," Smith said. At this point, I don't know if there's too many teams that don't know Kat. I'm sure she'll have somebody following her all over the field."
Chapman, however, still isn't sure. Should the Ironmen play team defense against Roe or assign a player to mark her at all time?
"We're wrestling with that decision," Chapman said. "I haven't decided yet. I keep going back and forth on it."
McCarthy has 20 goals and four assists, while McKendree University-bound senior Alyssa Reiniger has 13 goals and 11 assists and Sharos has seven goals and seven assists.
Collinsville has a pair of Division I recruits on defense in senior Brooke Blasingame (Missouri State) and Kassidy Rawdon (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville).
"They're going to be fired up and ready to go," Chapman said of the Kahoks. "For us to win that game, we're going to have to be at the top of our game. I feel like it's two teams that are probably pretty close to peaking at the right time.
"It's whoever brings it and avoid (key) mistakes. I think we're two evenly matched teams."
Smith said Collinsville can afford no defensive breakdowns.
"This team can put the ball in the net, that's for sure," he said. "So we're going to have to be very, very strong for 80 minutes and make sure our legs are fresh. We can't have any mistakes Friday night, without a doubt."
Smith said fatigue might have played a small role in the Collinsville's loss to Normal in Iowa.
"They were our third game in two days, but the same was true for them. We were their third game in two days," he said. "We still played them well. We were up 1-0 for a while and they battled back. We made some mistakes.
"Kat got a goal, but after that, they hunkered down and took care of business."
The previous game was played on grass. Collinsville's new synthetic surface should produce a faster pace.
"We're considered a turf team," Smith said. "We play well on turf. The field we played on in Iowa was a grass field and it was thick. I think it will play in (Normal's) favor as well because those girls that can score are very quick, too."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.