Facing Columbia in the postseason hasn’t worked out well for the Althoff girls soccer team.
The top-seeded Eagles eliminated the second-seeded Crusaders in the playoffs for the third consecutive year Friday with a 4-0 victory in the title game of the Class 1A Columbia Regional.
Senior Lauren Tolan led Columbia’s attack with two goals and an assist. Senior Lauren Kaempfe and sophomore Morgan Glaenzer also scored for the Eagles (11-7), who will meet Gibault or Anna-Jonesboro in the Columbia Sectional semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Gibault and Anna-Jonesboro will meet at 11 a.m. Saturday in the championship game of the Gibault Regional at Oerter Park in Columbia.
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“We did what we needed to do to win,” said Columbia coach Steve Ross, whose team led 2-0 at the intermission on goals by Tolan at 29 minutes, 20 seconds and Kaempfe at 31:55. “Tolan, we kept her up top and she was holding the ball. We dropped Lauren Kaempfe to the midfield this game just to change the complexion a little bit and it really seemed to pay off well.”
The Eagles remained on the attack in the second half, refusing to allow the Crusaders (7-13) to establish any type of momentum. Glaenzer’s flick on a feed from the right side by sophomore Blair Wittenbrink made it 3-0 at 52:17, and Tolan’s header on a corner kick from the right side by sophomore Madelyne Juenger made it 4-0 at 78:03.
“This whole season, it’s not been one person carrying us,” Ross said. “It’s been a group effort, and every game has been a different person stepping up throughout the season. So it’s been very consistent as far as unselfishness goes. We really like that.
“It’s been nice because we’ve got a lot of speed, we’ve got pretty good touch, we’ve got a good game plan, we’ve been pretty healthy. Those are all good combinations.”
Too many to contend with for the Crusaders.
“I was feeling very confident that we could give them a good game today,” Crusaders coach Juergen Huettner said. “I felt that way because I know we can play tight defense and I didn’t think Columbia, when I watched them, was overpowering and strong offensively or defensively that you think, ‘Oh, man, there’s nothing we can do.’
“But when they got two goals in two minutes ... They controlled the middle, and then in the second half, they scored on their first attack. Their right side was a problem for us all night long.”
Tolan’s first goal came after sophomore Samantha Bostick made a run down the left side of the field and sent the ball into the middle of the box. Tolan hit a shot that was blocked, but the ball caromed back to Tolan for a 10-yard rip that put the Eagles ahead to stay.
“We’ve been working on a lot of plays like that in practice, where we go down to the corner ... and cross it in. That’s what we’ve been working on, and it finally paid off,” Tolan said.
An Althoff foul set up the Eagles’ second goal. Tolan’s free kick was deflected off the Crusaders’ wall and was stuck in by Kaempfe after she got to the rebound. Kaempe has three goals in the last two games, including two in the semifinals in a 3-1 triumph over Wesclin.
“It’s a really big deal because it’s our senior year and all,” Kaempfe said of the regional championship. “It’s special because we’ve been through four years and I’m really close with all these girls. They’ve been a huge support, so it’s a really a big deal for us.”
Huettner said the Crusaders’ lack of hustle led to Kaempfe’s goal.
“They get a free kick from a dangerous situation and it goes into the wall. Usually, that’s it. The play is over,” Huettner said. “But we stood there. Nobody challenged the ball and the play comes back. But now the wall is spread out and (Kaempfe) just puts it in and it’s 2-0. Lucky? No. Inexperience on our end showed up.”
Althoff had solid possession in the first few minutes before Columbia’s talent and quickness began to show. The Crusaders’ first legitimate scoring chance didn’t come until the 54-minute mark when junior Shannon Maitland’s shot clanged off the football crossbar.
In the 73rd minute, Crusaders sophomore Amanda Kaltwasser’s header off a corner kick also ricocheted off the crossbar. It was that kind of evening for Althoff.
Columbia, a regional champion in three of the last four seasons, is on a similar course as last season when it reached the sectional championship before losing 3-2 on penalty kicks to Alton Marquette. The Explorers loom again, but Ross believes the Eagles have a chance to get over that hump this spring.
“We’ve got some experience going from the sectional last year. We want to continue to ride that,” Ross said. “I feel like we’re kicking on all cylinders.”
Althoff, meanwhile, returns the majority of its roster.
“My sophomores are going to be older and my juniors are going to be a year older,” Huettner said. “My freshmen are going to have a year underneath them and they have a whole varsity season behind them. And I know I have three, four good freshmen coming in. So things are looking up. We’ve got a good future.”