COLUMBIA — A 1-1 tie against Gibault wasn't what the Belleville West Maroons had in mind Thursday at Oerter Park.
But it wasn't the worst thing that could have happened to the Maroons, who avoided their fourth consecutive loss as junior Matt Klosterman scored on a free kick at 74 minutes, 34 seconds.
"I've been working on free kicks every practice --and before practice and after practice," said Klosterman, a defender whose 35-yard rocket eluded the outstretched arms of Hawks keeper Zach Rueter. "I lined it up and they wanted me to hit it (on goal), and right when I hit it, I knew it was going to go in.
"We knew this was a big game. We knew we needed to get back on track and we knew Gibault was a really good team; they're experienced. So we just came out and fought hard the whole game, and that's all you can ask for."
The Maroons, who had suffered narrow losses to Triad, Alton Marquette and Althoff in the last eight days, are 6-4-1. Gibault, which took a 1-0 lead on senior Wes Degener's goal at 47:35, is 7-2-2.
"We let it get away. We let it get away bad," Hawks coach Matt Reeb said. "We had chance after chance after chance to put them down 2-0, 3-0, whatever. Too many missed opportunities. We've got to figure out a way to finish."
That proved to be a difficult assignment against the Maroons, who received another stellar performance in goal by junior Nate Petrekovich, who posted 13 saves.
Petrekovich kept the game scoreless in the waning seconds of the first half when he stopped Degener's penalty kick, a play that was set up when Maroons sophomore Nick Harry tripped Gibault senior Mitch Meyer inside the box as Meyer moved in on goal.
In the 58th minute, Degener beat West junior Justin Sweeney on the right side and fed Meyer on the left side, but Meyer's shot was grabbed by Petrekovich.
In the 70th minute, Degener had a one-on-one opportunity against Petrekovich. Degener, however, opted to pass to unmarked senior Tyler Enright on the left side, and Petrekovich made a slick save on Enright's low shot.
"(Degener) should have finished that, but he passed it off and maybe we should have finished that," Reeb said. "We've got to finish one of those. Those are two blatantly obvious chances to score. It turns the game vs. (being) 1-0, when they're still battling and still fighting because they have a chance."
The Maroons had numbers in the box on several occasions in a wide-open second half, but Gibault's size and skill turned them away until the foul that gave Klosterman his free kick.
"A great shot," Reeb said. "He put it right in the upper corner. It hurts not having your starting keeper in, but it was a great shot, so it would have been tough for Austin Gregson to save, too. Just give credit (to Klosterman). It was a great hit."
Gregson, a senior, missed the game after receiving a red card Tuesday against Columbia. West junior Ian Mayr sat out the game after getting a red card Tuesday against Althoff.
"To get a draw was great for us because we were coming off three losses," West coach Rob Thornberry said. "I was proud of the guys for fighting back. The effort was there tonight. It was nice to see Klosterman get a goal off a dead ball. He's dangerous on dead balls and it was nice to see him get one."
Donation for Epplin
Before the game, West players donated money to the family of Gibault senior Zac Epplin, who is battling cancer.
Reeb said "several hundred" dollars were raised that will help the Epplin family with medical expenses. Reeb called it "an extremely generous gesture" and "a great act of sportsmanship."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.