Waterloo’s only loss this season came to Belleville West and the Bulldogs were not eager to repeat the experience Thursday night.
Junior Ben Huels scored from deep in the box at 68 minutes, 13 seconds, breaking a 1-1 deadlock and lifting Waterloo to a 2-1 victory in Pool C of the 61st annual CYC Tournament.
Waterloo, which lost to West 4-1 on Sept. 3 in Belleville, improved to 14-1 and will play Columbia (11-0-1) in the semifinals of the Msgr. Larry Walsh Division at 8 p.m. Friday at St. Louis Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo. The winner will play for the title at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“I think (Kyle) Osterhage passed it to me,” said Huels, who has 17 goals. “I just (used) the inside of my foot and buried it with my left foot. I knew it went in right when I hit it.
“We came out flat the first game we played (West). Our guys were hungry and we had a great effort. We found a good way to win the game.”
Waterloo coach Chad Holden said his players were looking forward to the rematch.
“We wanted a little payback; we’ve been looking forward to this game since when we found out we would be seeing them a second time after they beat us,” Holden said. “We saw them the fifth, sixth game of the year, and we’ve changed a few things since then. Playing them made us realize some of the things we needed to work on.”
Junior Ryan Stites scored Waterloo’s other goal, converting from the left side of the box at 30:59 to put the Bulldogs ahead 1-0.
But the Maroons (8-2) tied the game at 59:01 on a header from senior Jack Langen off a corner kick from the left side by senior Sean Gouveia. West senior Brandon Gregory made two sensational saves in the next seven minutes, but had no chance on Huels’ shot.
Holden was proud of the way the Bulldos maintained their initiative despite the disappointment of seeing the Maroons tie the game.
“It almost kind of made us want it even more,” Holden said. “We’ve had a few games where we’ve been down, but we’ve never panicked. That’s part of the game. I thought we were playing pretty well, actually, when they tied it up. We just came right back and scored it. I thought it was very deserving.”
West coach Rob Thornberry was disappointed that the play was allowed to continue. He believed senior Jordan Tastad had been fouled at midfield, but there was no call.
“It was a scrum, but (the ball) happened to fall to one of their top players,” Thornberry said. “It was a good strike. We gave him too much space; we should have cleared it out.
“The issue I had with that play is our guy got clobbered at the 50. No call, and then the ball goes down (to the end). If you miss a call like that and a goal happens, you’ve got to wonder. Our guy was going for the ball and just got literally smashed in the back. It was almost a cardable foul, but no call and we were going the other way.”
Columbia, the defending Class 1A state champion, scored four first-half goals and whipped Triad 7-0 to win the Pool A championship.
Senior Sean Rickey had a first-half as the Eagles quickly established themselves against the Knights (4-8-2). Senior Ryan Gudeman also had a first-half goal.
Gudeman, seniors Cameron Roth and Logan Cannon had second-half goals, with Cannon’s coming on a penalty kick. Gudeman and Rickey lead Columbia with 16 goals apiece.
“We were super-prepared,” Rickey said. “We knew we had to play our game, and we came out and showed it. It’s definitely a confidence-booster heading into (Friday). That’s super-big. I’m really excited for it. I haven’t been able to play (Waterloo) my entire high-school career.”
Eagles coach Jason Mathenia, likewise, is motivated by the opportunity.
“Waterloo is having a great year,” he said. “They’re making a lot of noise themselves and getting a lot of attention, which is great. We’ve got two of the top teams in Class 2A, for sure, in this local area, if not the southern half of Illinois. Now we finally get a chance to meet.”