FREEBURG — With her blazing speed and ability to be in the right place at the right time, Columbia junior Lauren Kaempfe created havoc for opposing defenses throughout the 2014 season.
And Friday, Kaempfe made the sure Althoff's postseason run would be a short one.
Kaempfe broke a 1-1 tie in the opening minute of the second half and the Eagles' defense held Althoff in check as Columbia went on for a 2-1 win in the title game of the Class 1A Freeburg Regional.
With play taking place on the Crusaders' end of the field, Eagles junior Lauren Tolan got off a shot that Althoff goalie Kelly Brahmbhatt came well out of the net to try and stop.
The ball, which bounced high and past Brahmbatt, rolled toward the goal on the field turf playing surface.
Kaempfe beat a Crusaders' defender to the ball and scored from point-blank range for what proved to be the game-winning tally.
"When the ball bounced over the goalie's head I sprinted to it, dribbled it and was able to get enough of a shot off to put it in the net,'' Kaempfe said. "This hasn't been the year we were hoping for in terms of wins and losses, because we've had a lot of people hurt.
"So to be able to win a regional title, it feels really good. I'm just really happy for the seniors.''
Sophomore goalie Allison Riddle made a pair of saves on Crusaders' shots from close range in the closing 15 minutes to seal the win for Columbia, which overcame a sluggish start and a 1-0 deficit.
"It's the regional-title game and of course you're a little nervous, maybe a little more than usual, but I had confidence that we would pull through,'' Tolan said. "We've been through a lot this year. I'm just happy we won.''
The win over the top-seeded Crusaders means Columbia (8-11) will host either Mater Dei or Olney at the Columbia Sectional in a semifinal on Tuesday, beginning at 5 p.m.
Mater Dei is playing (Olney) East Richland in the title game of the Metro-East Lutheran Regional today.
Althoff (10-10-3), coming off a 4-0 semifinal win over Wesclin on Tuesday, dominated the game's first 20 minutes.
Senior midfielder Natalie Heitzman scored from 18 yards out with 5 minutes, 40 seconds gone in the game.
Heitzman, Rachel Kaltwasser and Savannah Ames then had shots on goal over the next 10 minutes, but Riddle and the Eagles' defense avoided another tally.
"The first few minutes we were shaky. But we didn't look very good in warm-ups either," Eagles coach Steve Ross said. "Then we were able to turn it around.
"Lauren (Kaempfe) has been playing numerous positions, because like a lot of other teams we've had so many injuries. And so when we're healthy she goes back on top. She creates so much with her speed and quickens and when her sidekick (Tolan) got back and healthy, those two play so well off each other. With Tolan back in the midfield it opened up a lot of opportunities."
The Eagles got the equalizer about midway through the first half, when Tolan hit a shot from 30 yards out which hit the cross bar. The ball took a crazy bounce in front of the net to Kaempfe, who scored to tie it at 1-1.
That goal seemed to take a lot out of the Crusaders, according to coach Juergen Huettner.
"I had seen Columbia play a couple of times and they have a tendency to come out a little slow at times, so the game plan was to come out fast and get a goal on them early. We did that,'' Huettner said. "I still felt that tied at 1, if we came out and played our game in the second half that we still had a chance.
"But when they came out and got the goal in the opening minute of the half, we could never recover from that.''