The defending IHSA Class 1A state soccer champion began its assault on a 2A title as if class doesn’t make much of a difference.
Columbia scored five second-half goals to put Mascoutah away, 6-0, in Tuesday’s first semifinal game. The top-seeded Eagles (21-1-1) advance to championship game of its own regional Friday night. They’ll face No. 3 Marion for the regional title at 6 p.m. Friday.
While the Eagles’ first playoff game at 2A may have had the same lop-sided result as last season’s march to the 1A title, Columbia coach Jason Mathenia is expecting stiffer resistance in their quest to repeat.
“This is not to take away from the success or competition we saw in 1A but, without a doubt in my mind, there will be a big difference (at 2A),” he said. “Every game as we move forward is going to get more and more challenging.”
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Mascoutah, the tournament’s No. 6 seed, fell to 12-11-1 with the loss.
Senior midfielder Sean Rickey scored a pair of goals and had two assists in Columbia’s victory. His first-half goal was scored on a throw-in that rattled through the Mascoutah goal box before finding the back of the net.
It’s not the first such goal scored by Rickey, an off-season gymnast who does a forward somersault to catapult the ball, sometimes up to 35 yards. It’s an indirect play that relies on contact from a teammate or the opposition for the goal to count.
Mathenia guessed it was the seventh or eighth goal Rickey has scored using his unusual throw-in.
“It gives me a lot of range and depending on where I’m at, I’ll try to throw it in a dangerous place in the box,” Rickey said. “If it’s directly at the keeper, sometimes it works out.”
Columbia kept pressure on the Mascoutah goal throughout the first half, but Indians’ goalie Bryce Ettling made several saves on shots from inside the goal box to keep the game close.
It gives me a lot of range and depending on where I’m at, I’ll try to throw it in a dangerous place in the box. If it’s directly at the keeper, sometimes it works out.
Columbia senior midfielder Sean Rickey on his head-over-heals somersault throw-in that netted the Eagles’ first goal Tuesday
But a goal that skimmed the top cross bar by Brett Meyer was the first of three in a span of five minutes and 20 seconds. Ryan Gudeman scored his 21st goal on a header with an assist from Cameron Roth exactly one minute after the Eagles’ second score. Just four minutes later, Sam Spivey hit the back of the Mascoutah goal off a pass from Rickey.
Rickey scored his second goal on a penalty kick and Roth picked up a goal with an assist from Adam Becker at the 13:51 mark.
“We talked at half time about what we had to change immediately,” said Mathenia. “Three goals in the first few minutes of the half says enough for itself.”
In preparation for its first post-season at a high class, Mathenia augmented Columbia’s non-conference schedule with big-school opponents, including Belleville West, Alton and Granite City, which played the Eagles to a tie.
“There’s no doubt we wanted to beef our schedule up to prepare for the post-season,” Mathenia said. “When you add three of the six teams from the Southwestern Confernce, you’re doing OK.”
Marion 5, Triad 1
Third-seeded Marion advanced to the regional championship game with a 5-1 win over No. 6 Triad in a semifinal nightcap game Thursday in Columbia.
Triad took the early lead on a goal by junior Chase Jones, but Marion’s Kameron Dover tied it with 1:54 left in the first half. The Wildcats stretched the lead to 3-1 by the 22:31 mark of the second half and cruised to the win.
“It hurt to give up that goal right before the half because, I think, it swung all the momentum their way,” said Triad head coach Jim Jackson. “We made some mistakes, gave up some goals we shouldn’t have and missed some opportunities. That’s been our M.O. all year. We just haven’t been able to put the ball away when we had opportunities.
Marion’s Adam Newman finished with a three-goal hat trick, including the tie breaker at 34:57 of the second half. He scored the last two just 11 minutes apart at the close of the game.
The Wildcats out shot Triad 16-8. Junior goalie John McGee kept the Knights in the game with several spectacular saves and nine in total. Newman’s second goal came off the rebound from one of McGee’s diving stops.
“John is a three-year starter, is one of our team leaders, and has done an outstanding job all year,” said Jackson.
With just six seniors on the roster, the Knights finished the season at 8-11-3. Marion improved to 17-4-1.