Two of the youngest players on Belleville West’s girls soccer team powered the Maroons to one of their biggest victories of the season Tuesday.
Freshman Taylor Mathenia had a goal and an assist and sophomore Jamie Adams had a goal as West defeated the host Belleville East Lancers 2-1 in a Southwestern Conference game.
The win gave the Maroons (10-2-3, 2-1-1) the city championship. West took the first step to the city title with a 7-0 victory over Althoff on April 16 at West.
“We preach to them day in and day out about being professional, acting responsible and acting like you’ve been here before,” Maroons coach Jason Mathenia said of his team’s relatively subdued reaction to the victory. “Does it mean something? Absolutely, deep down inside. But it’s not something we have to run around the field and celebrate on.”
Adams said the city championship “definitely means a lot.”
“Last year, we came pretty close, tying Althoff,” she said. “We ended up not getting the city championship, but this year, it feels great. I’m hoping the next two years, we continue to do good and get other championships.”
Taylor Mathenia, the coach’s daughter, knocked in the game-winner at 69 minutes, 8 seconds. Standing in the box, Mathenia ripped a shot off an East defender, but the deflection wasn’t enough to prevent the ball from eking across the line before the Lancers could clear.
“She struck it well,” Jason Mathenia said. “It just literally spun inside the back post. It was good for her to get the shot off, but a little luck is on your side when a deflection goes in the goal. It took a long time (to cross the line), because I’m sitting there, ‘Come on, come on.’”
It was a disappointing loss for the Lancers (6-8-2, 1-4-1), but second-year coach Erika Todd-Baptist considered it one of their best showings of the season.
“I’m not unhappy with our performance at all,” Todd-Baptist said. “I’ve been madder or more upset with my team. That’s all I’ve ever asked for – good attitude and hard work. That gets you a lot. You can learn skill.
“The girls are starting to believe. We still have problems with hunger to score. But I think that comes from experience and youth.”
The Maroons threatened on numerous occasions in the first half. Senior Sydnee Carroll shot wide right on a feed from Taylor Mathenia in the eighth minute, and junior Amelia Coyne’s shot was cleared off the line by Lancers junior Alyssa Bartle in the 17th minute.
Mathenia, a center midfielder with gazelle-like strides, finally helped the Maroons get on the board when she won a battle for a loose ball in the right corner and flighted a pass to the far post. Adams was there for a header, her fourth goal of the season, to make it 1-0 at 19:30.
“I tried to shoot it once and it bounced back to me,” Mathenia said. “I realized I was free, so I tried to cross it and Jamie was there to finish it.”
Jason Mathenia complimented his daughter, who has eight goals and five assists this season.
“She was very effective. She was very dangerous,” he said. “She creates the opportunity Jamie Adams scores on for the first goal and gets a deflection off one of her shots for the second goal. So yeah, she had a good night. She was dynamic up front, which is good on her part.
“But it’s always about a team effort. She doesn’t get those opportunities like that if not for the 10 players around her.”
The Maroons nearly added to their lead on two other occasions in the first half. Freshman Melanie Kulig shot high in traffic from 8 yards out in the 32nd minute, and Mathenia pushed a shot outside the left post on a nice pass from Carroll in the 33rd minute.
Maroons freshman keeper Bailey Redden made a nice save in front of the right post on a hard shot by freshman Olivia Lee later in the 33rd minute.
But Lee capitalized on her next opportunity, which came in the second half. Freshman Grace Brauer chased down a bouncing ball and crossed a low pass from the right corner that rolled in front of the goal line to Lee, who finished in front of the left post to make it 1-1 at 62:41.
“Grace never quits,” Todd-Baptist said. “She’s hungry; she wants it. She’s always upset with a loss and doesn’t settle for not being involved in a goal-scoring opportunity.”