The Collinsville Kahoks are ready to take yet another swing at a state soccer championship.
Collinsville got second-half goals from junior Courtney Marten and senior Emily Holten on Tuesday as it downed Lincoln-Way West 2-0 in the Class 3A Normal Super-Sectional.
The Kahoks (19-6-1), who finished fourth at state in 2015 and second last year, will play New Trier at 5 p.m. Friday at North Central College in Naperville. It’s a rematch of the championship game last spring, which New Trier won 4-0. The Trevians (20-2-1) defeated St. Charles North 1-0 on Tuesday in the Bartlett Super-Sectional.
“It’s crazy,” Collinsville coach Clay Smith said. “It’s a little surreal right now, being three years in a row. I know we have a very tough, tough two games ahead of us in Naperville. Everybody that’s playing is phenomenal and ranked very high in the state. They’re great teams, but I think we’re a great team. We’re going to go up there and see what we can do.”
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The game was played with a strong wind gusting from the west, making any attack through the air almost impossible. The Kahoks mounted plenty of threats, however, only to misfire repeatedly in the first half. Senior Tayler Devine finally found Marten open for a goal in front of the left post at 47 minutes, 38 seconds, breaking the stalemate.
“It was a good cross from Tayler,” said Marten, who has 15 goals. “It kind of bounced off my stomach, and it then it was a race between me and the goalie. I tapped it around her and got it in. We were trying and trying the first half; we just weren’t getting lucky. Putting one in was a relief, but we had to keep playing hard.”
The Warriors (16-6-3) used just one forward for most of the game, but finally began utilizing two attackers midway through the second half. That enabled the Kahoks to become even more dangerous, and Holten’s goal from the right side on a feed from junior Riley Harris put the game away at 75:09. It was Holten’s 20th goal of the season.
Senior Morgan Lerch had the shutout in goal with help from defenders Dayle McEwen, Emma Knoebel, Faith Liljegren and Danielle Knutson.
“With the ball being in their end most of the time, we had to stay alert back there and not let anything pass by us,” said McEwen, a senior.
“We’ve pushed ourselves to get here. There’s still a lot of work to be done. We have to do business up in Naperville.”
Lincoln-Way West coach Jeff Theiss, whose roster comprises 12 sophomores, said the Kahoks had too much firepower and experience.
“This team right here is very, very experienced and very explosive,” Theiss said of the Kahoks. “But we like our group, and we definitely had confidence. It was a nice counterattack (Marten’s goal), and they put the ball in the net. Then that kind of stretched us. We had to push some numbers forward, and they exploited that.”
The first half was filled with frustration for Collinsville, as most of their shots sailed high over the goal without testing Lincoln-Way West senior keeper Erin Toomey.
O’Leary appeared to be tackled in the box by a defender as she tried to get a foot on the ball inside the box in the 28th minute. There was no call, and moments later Smith received a yellow card for a no-call on what he believed was a foul against senior Andrea Frerker.
Marten missed a golden opportunity to put the Kahoks ahead in the 43rd minute. But with the right corner of the goal wide-open, Marten shot went outside the right post.
But four minutes later, Devine made her run up the left side and found Marten, who didn’t miss the second time around.
“We had to figure some things out,” Smith said. “We weren’t playing smart in the first 40 minutes against a team we know, defensively, are dropping seven or eight players behind the ball. That’s tough to play against.
“Luckily for us, we have smart players. We regrouped at halftime. The important thing is we didn’t panic, even though we didn’t have a goal in the first 40 minutes. We were just taking bad shot selections in the first 40. The second half, we got inside the 18 and broke them down more, and that’s what we had to do. It worked out.”