It has been said that defense wins championships. At least that’s what Waterloo soccer coach Chad Holden is hoping.
Waterloo freshman Emma Novack scored off a rebound with 16 minutes left in the first half and the Bulldogs lock-down defense did the rest as Waterloo defeated Mississippi Valley Conference rival Highland 2-0 in the semifinals of the Class 2A Waterloo Regional girls soccer tournament Tuesday at Bulldogs Field.
Held in check by several strong saves by Highland goalie Abigail Johnson and its own inability to put the ball away, second-seeded Waterloo found itself in a battle in the first 20 minutes.
Waterloo hit the crossbar once, the goal post and had two other shots from point-blank range stopped by a sprawling Johnson.
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But when a shot from the far left side of the field deflected over to a wide-open Nowack, she calmly hit a shot which sailed into the upper-left hand corner of the net just beyond the outstretched hand of a leaping Johnson.
“We had some chances early. He hit the crossbar and their goalie (Johnson) made a couple of great saves. It was good to get that first goal in the first half. With the way we’ve played defense all year, we feel pretty good,’’ Holden said. “We don’t give up many goals. I think we had a stretch where we gave up three goals in like 14 games. The thing about it is that we’re playing a lot of young girls on defense. They’ve done a great job.’’
Junior Erika Lloyd added a goal on a free kick from point-blank range, following a hand ball in the box call on Highland with just over 10 minutes left, to give Waterloo a 2-0 lead. That goal cemented the Bulldogs’ spot in the title game against top-seeded Triad, another MVC rival.
Game time is set for 5 p.m. on Friday at Waterloo High School
Triad (17-5) defeated Mascoutah 8-0 in the first semifinal Tuesday. The win for Waterloo was its school record 20th of the season. But two of the Bulldogs (20-3) losses have come to Triad, by scores of 3-1 and 1-0.
Blanked twice by Waterloo (1-0 and 3-0) during the regular season, Highland (8-12-1) didn’t come close to scoring a goal against a Waterloo defense which is spearheaded by freshman Sierra Berg.
Highland coach Josh Oswald said he knew coming into the game that scoring chances would be few and far between for his team.
“I think our best chance was when we had a long throw in late in the first half. Our only chance tonight was to keep it 0-0 or 1-0 and maybe get a bounce to go our way,’’ Oawald said. “They (Waterloo) have a very good defense and with No. 4 (Berg) back there, they are just really difficult to get behind.
“Abigail (Johnson) made some great saves early to keep them (Waterloo) off the scoreboard. We just couldn’t get anything generated on offense.’’
Triad 8, Mascoutah 0: The sometimes inconsistent offense of the Knights was in high gear from the outset as it scored four goals in the first 15 minutes and went on for an easy win over the fourth seeded Indians (6-14-2).
Attacking the overmatched Indians from the start, Triad senior Morgan Mell scored two goals less than 68 seconds apart with fewer than six minutes gone and Corinne Petrunich and Allison Wendt added goals less then 10 minutes later. Wendt’s goal came with 25 minutes 44 seconds left in the first half and gave Triad a 4-0 lead.
“We wanted to come out and attack early. Put pressure on their (Mascoutah’s) defense and see if we could put up a couple of quick goals,’’ Knights coach Matt Bettlach said. “We were able to move the ball around and create chances. Now we’ve been a little inconsistent at times about taking advantage of our scoring chances. But tonight we put the ball in the back of the net.’’
Leading 4-0 with just under 25 minutes left in the opening half, Triad wasn’t done. Junior Sydney Keller added a pair of goals, while Jody Ellis and Kalie Gibbs also scored. Keller’s second goal of the night came with 24 seconds left in the first half and gave Triad an 8-0 lead.
The second half of the game was cut to 20 minutes by the IHSA mercy rule.
“I really liked some of the shots we took. A couple of our goals came off of tough angles,’’ Bettlach said. “I also liked our patience on a couple of the goals. The girls have to realize that you don’t always have to rush the shots. Sometimes it’s better to wait a second or two to get a better shot. We did that tonight.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.