With a berth in the title game of the Class 1A Gibault Sectional on the line Tuesday, Gibault boys soccer coach Matt Reeb made all the right moves.
Junior Zack Gillan’s hustle set set up a goal by Dalton Scace with 32 minutes remaining and seniors Ben Mueth and Kyle Rocca added goals late in the second half as Gibault held off pesky Central 3-0 in a semifinal contest at Oerter Park in Columbia.
Central (14-6-1), playing solid defense, held the more tournament-tested Hawks to just five shots and just one good scoring chance in the first half. But when Reeb made changes at halftime, the Hawks offense got on track, scoring twice in the first 20 minutes to seize control of the game.
“Central came out and played well in the first half. They’ve got a good team,” Reeb said. “We just needed to make a few changes at halftime. I moved a couple of our pieces around hoping that it would open up a few more scoring chances and it did.”
With senior goalie Trevor Davis making seven saves, Gibault (13-7-1) advances into the sectional title game on Friday at 6 p.m. against longtime rival Althoff. The Crusaders (10-11-2) advanced with a 4-0 win over Mater Dei in the first semifinal on Tuesday.
But while Gibbault broke the game open with three second half goals, the first half was a defensive battle with Central having the best scoring chance.
But when David got a hand on a shot from point blank range with just over 12 minutes left in the first half, the Cougars had their best chance of the night fall short.
“I thought we played well and we had a couple of good chances in the first half,” Central coach Keith Patterson said. “What happened in the second half I think more than anything is that they wore us down a littler bit. They (Gibault) have a little deeper bench then we do. Once they scored the first goal, it kind of relaxed them a little bit. Our hope was to hopefully stay even with them with 8-10 minutes left in the game and then really go after it. But in a game like this 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 if doesn’t really matter. I was proud of how we played though.”
Althoff 4, Mater Dei 0
Althoff midfielders John Lewis and Riley Sullivan scored goals 1 minute, 9 seconds apart early in the second half as the Crusaders broke open a close game and went on to defeat injury-riddled Mater Dei in the first semifinal at Oerter park.
Plaugued by the injury bug from the first day of the season and playing without senior back Alex Loepker (12 goals, 4 assists), Mater Dei nearly got on the scoreboard early in the first half which saw only Crusaders midfielder Josh Mark tally in the opening 27 minutes of the game.
But when Lewis beat Mater Dei goalie Justin Fritch with 26:51 left and Sullivan scored with 25:42 remaining, Althoff had broken the game open and at least taken a little of the spirit out of the short-handed Knights.
“Mater Dei is a very good team and those kids played so hard tonight. I talked to (Alex ) Loepker and I could tell how disappointed he was that he couldn’t play tonight,” Althoff coach Skip Birdsong said.
Mater Dei (13-7-2) did battle hard all night.
“I’m proud of this team. From the first day of the season we’ve been fighting injuries, but these kids kept battling and playing hard,” Mater Dei coach James Arnold said. “We won 13 games and another regional title. We had a good year.”