NORMAL — Edwardsville played with comfort and ease Friday, and the result was undeniable.
Senior Lilly Cobb, junior Lexi Norton and freshman Ashlin West scored goals as the Tigers overwhelmed Moline 3-0 in the championship game of the Class 3A Normal Sectional.
It's the first sectional title since 2007 and the third in school history for the Tigers (23-1), who outshot the Maroons 25-2.
"We knew we had to come out ready to play, so we came out with everything we had," Edwardsville coach Abby Comerford said. "They had to come out ready to play, and they did. They were pretty relaxed. We had a good trip up and they were calm."
"I thought we were all going to be more nervous," Norton said. "But we came out right from the bat and were really calm and passing to feet. I just think we have a good group of girls that knows how to calm each other down."
Edwardsville will be on the same field at 6 p.m. Tuesday when it plays Waubonsie Valley, which defeated Metea Valley 2-0 on Friday in the championship game of the Naperville North Sectional.
"We've never been (this far) before, so it feels pretty good," Cobb said. "We come into every game being positive and keeping our cool. We're so ready (for Tuesday)."
As usual, the Tigers' defense was stingy, even without senior starter Ashley Krekovich and junior reserve Paige Diak, both of whom were sick. Moline (17-4) didn't manage its first shot until the 57th minute --a weak header that senior goalie Kristin Francis easily grabbed.
The shutout for Edwardsville was its 20th of the season, and it has outscored its opponents 59-4.
Maroons coach Rick Sanchez knew his team would be in for a struggle in the days leading up to the game. Unfortunately for Moline, the Tigers came better than advertised.
"They were everything we've heard about," said Sanchez, whose team was seeking its first sectional championship. "They're a good team. They deserved to win tonight. They were the better team.
"Their two center midfielders (West and senior Taylor Thompson) really gave us fits. They won a lot of balls there and minimized the chances we had on the offensive third of the field. We weren't able to break through them to get to the back line."
Edwardsville applied consistent first-half pressure, but didn't convert until Cobb scored on a 30-yard laser off a feed from senior Tessa Wagner at 31 minutes, 49 seconds.
The Tigers threatened on two other occasions after Cobb's goal --shots by freshman Abby Crabtree and Thompson --but settled for a 1-0 lead at the intermission.
"To be able to get one in was cool," said Cobb, crediting the strong work in goal of Moline senior Rachel Holt, who made several circus saves in the opening half before Cobb broke the ice.
"Credit to her; she hit a pill 25 yards out," Sanchez said. "That's a great goal. But Rachel made a couple of nice saves to keep us in the ballgame. I thought we were in a good situation at halftime, even down 1-0. But they're good."
Norton's goal at 59:49 made it 2-0. She converted from just outside the 6 after Moline was unable to clear. Junior Riley Mushill was credited with the assist on the play after she banged a shot that caromed off the face of a Maroons defender in the box.
"The goalie had her vision blocked," Norton said. "I just placed the ball in the middle and had all the time in the world to finish."
Edwardsville made it 3-0 at 75:27 when West hit a one-timer in the box on a pass from Cobb on the right side.
"I haven't been to this point with the Edwardsville girls," Comerford said. "It's really great to be able to share this, especially with this group of girls."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.