Mater Dei enjoyed the better of the action against Althoff on Tuesday night, but it was the Crusaders who celebrated in the end.
Althoff outscored the Knights 5-3 in penalty kicks to post a 1-0 victory in the semifinals of the Class 1A Gibault Sectional at Oerter Park.
Senior Alex Langenstein hit the clinching penalty kick for Althoff (11-10-3), which will play Anna-Jonesboro (17-5-1) in the championship game at 6 p.m. Friday.
“I try to stay calm on PKs and do what I do at practice,” said Langenstein, whose shot hit the crossbar and dropped inside the goal. “I usually pick a side and hope for the best. I decide when I go up there and go for it. It’s a great feeling. They were a great team and I’m glad we could get past them.”
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Althoff and Mater Dei met twice this season and played 200 minutes, including 40 minutes of overtime, and did not score a goal. They played to a 0-0 tie earlier Sept. 26.
The Knights (16-4-3) advanced to the sectional by outscoring Massac County 4-3 on penalty kicks to win 1-0 in the Carlyle Regional championship on Friday.
But coach James Arnold didn’t have a good feeling about another happy ending after he watched his team threaten time and again without being rewarded.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “It was nice to make it to this moment. If the game is based on chances, it’s a whole lot (for us) to a little. But it’s not. It’s based on puttiing that ball in the back of the net. We tried, but it wouldn’t go.
“On Friday, we didn’t have as many chances. Tonight, it’s chance after chance after chance. At some point, you start thinking, ‘Man, are we snakebit here? Is this how this is going to go down?’ It’s tough, but it’s the same old rule. If you don’t put the ball in, you don’t win. Chances are chances, but they’re not a goal.”
Seniors Justin Robinson and Evan Toennies, junior Stephen Waltrip and sophomore Jimmy Monken also made penalty kicks for the Crusaders. Junior Brandon Billhartz, Breed and junior Alex Loepker tallied for Mater Dei. The Knights’ only miss was from their first shooter, sophomore Tyler Hitpas. Langenstein’s PK wiped out the need for another Mater Dei shot.
“That was a battle,” Althoff coach Joe Burchett said. “They had some opportunities to score some goals. We had maybe not as many, but we did have some. It became very interesting.”
Leading the Mater Dei charge was senior Cade Breed from the left side of the field. When Breed wasn’t threatening the goal, he was sending crosses to teammates in front. The Knights then shifted Breed to the middle of the field for overtime, further taxing Althoff’s defense.
Crusaders senior Stephen Toenjes made a strong save in front of the right post on a shot by junior Luke Brinker in the first overtime, and the Knights had two chances from deep in the box in the second overtime before the Crusaders were able to clear.
Breed skimmed the crossbar with a shot in the final five minutes of regulation, and Breed’s free kick from 20 yards away in the final five minutes of the half was caught by Toenjes.
Sophomore Tyler Stone nearly gave Althoff the lead midway through the second overtime. Waltrip crossed from the right side, but Stone’s rocket was inches over the crossbar.
“I about jumped out of my shoes. I thought it was a goal,” Burchett said.
“(But) we were resilient again; we wanted it. It’s nice to see the desire and the heart. They know every game matters, and they’re fighting. As long as they keep doing that, maybe something good will happen.”
Anna-Jonesboro 1, Gibault 0
Senior Zach Parr misfired against a wide-open net in the 46 minute, but Parr atoned for his mistake with a goal from senior Jared Collier at 52 minutes, 24 seconds to lift the Wildcats.
Parr, who had five goals Saturday in a 5-0 win over Central in the championship game of the Anna-Jonesboro Regional, has 43 goals this season.
“I was so mad after that first time. I should have scored,” Parr said. “But I made the second one count, so it ended up good.”
Gibault, which defeated the Wildcats 6-2 on Sept. 26, finished 13-10. Anna-Jonesboro dramatically changed its approach for the rematch with the Hawks.
“(Monday) at practice, we worked on our defense a lot,” Wildcats coach Mark Boomer said. “We wanted to stay compact and tight, and that’s what we did. That’s what we had to do. I told them, ‘You’ve got to come out and you’ve got to play. If you want it, you’ve got to play.’ And they did. This team digs deep and gives me everything. This was a big obstacle.”
Sophomore Jake Parr, Zach’s brother, had the shutout in goal as Anna-Jonesboro managed to keep high-scoring juniors Dalton Scace and Ben Mueth off the board.
“The road was there, but we didn’t do it this year. We didn’t seize it,” Gibault coach Matt Reeb said. “Credit to Anna-Jonesboro. They completely switched everything around. They dropped four back ... and didn’t let us get behind them. We got behind them continuously last game. I think they recognized that and adjusted for it. We know they’re a good program.”
When Parr missed his open shot, Reeb was hopeful Gibault would make the Wildcats pay.
“We figured, yeah, if he missed that one, we were maybe out of the woods,” Reeb said. “But you knew he was going to get another (opportunity), just because of how good a player he is.”