Belleville East’s girls soccer team is making sure losing doesn’t become a habit.
The Lancers won five consecutive games between April 6-14. They’ve lost twice since then, but after each setback, they’ve bounced back with a victory.
East defeated visiting Althoff 3-1 on Wednesday to finish runner-up to Belleville West in the annual battle for the city championship. The win got the Lancers back into a groove after they fell 5-1 at Incarnate Word on Saturday.
“If you’re not first, you’re last. But it doesn’t define us,” East coach Erika Todd-Baptist said, not deriving much pleasure from finishing second in the city but generally pleased with getting right back on the winning track. “That’s the thing. We’ve got to prepare for each game so we don’t dwell on anything. We just learn from mistakes and try to focus on that.”
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The Lancers (10-6) have lost back-to-back games just once this season, falling 3-0 against Southwestern Conference powers Collinsville and Edwardsville.
In the first half, we didn’t even show up. There was no Althoff there. We didn’t do anything. We couldn’t connect any passes. The first half was, by far, the worse performance I’ve ever seen us play.
Althoff girls soccer coach Juergen Huettner
Althoff, meanwhile, fell to 7-7-1 and Crusaders coach Juergen Huettner was not the least bit pleased about his team’s performance in a game that commanded a higher energy level.
“In the first half, we didn’t even show up,” Huettner said. “There was no Althoff there. We didn’t do anything. We couldn’t connect any passes. The first half was, by far, the worse performance I’ve ever seen us play. We had a couple of bad games this year, but for a city rivalry ... It’s Althoff-East. You would think there would be more (emotion). There was none.
“In the second half, I don’t think it was a whole lot better. We changed a few things around and thought it would give us a little more grip in the middle of the field where, all day long, we had no grip. We could never connect in the middle. We made it 2-1, but then it was too late. There was plenty of time on the clock, but you can’t come out in an 80-minute game and decide you’re going to play for 15. It’s not going to work.”
Freshman Alexandra Mueller scored her second goal of the season from deep in the box on a feed from senior Rylan Lopez as the Lancers built a 1-0 lead at halftime.
Lopez’s corner kick was headed in by junior Grace Brauer, her team-leading 13th goal of the season, to make it 2-0 in the 59th minute.
Althoff recovered, getting within 2-1 in the 66th minute. Freshman Kyra Humbert deposited a free kick from 40 yards into the box, where junior Amanda Kaltwasser got control long enough to rip in a shot from the middle of the box. Kaltwasser leads the Crusaders with 12 goals.
Rylan (Lopez) has been practicing that a lot. She’s gotten better with her corner kicks. We practiced that in warmups and I headed it over the goal. Coach Baptist told me, ‘Run straight through it and it will go in.’ I ran straight through it and it went in.
Belleville East sophomore Grace Brauer on Rylan Lopez’s corner kick that led to Brauer’s goal
East sealed the game in the 79 minute as sophomore Cecilia Maue scored in front off a cross from the right side by junior Hollie Kreher. It was Maue’s second goal.
Brauer’s goal was a thing of beauty and it started with a perfect corner from Lopez.
“Rylan’s been practicing that a lot,” Brauer said. “She’s gotten better with her corner kicks. We practiced that in warmups and I headed it over the goal. Coach Baptist told me, ‘Run straight through it and it will go in.’ I ran straight through it and it went in.”
Back to work
Althoff won’t have long to lick its wounds. The Crusaders are back in action at Wesclin (10-5) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and Huettner will be looking for a more determined effort.
“Two players showed up (Wednesday),” Huettner said. “Anna Hanger showed up and played like she always does. (Jessica) Hoffman isn’t the most technical player we have, but she played hard. ... And obviously, our goalkeeper (Rachel Monken) came up with some good saves. She did a good job. And Kaltwasser scored a goal and caused some danger up front.
“But everybody else wasn’t there. I’m flabbergasted. I don’t know what it is. I’m upset because I think we’ve got some quality kids out there.”
Hanger said the Crusaders must look ahead.
“It’s really frustrating because I know we can be that team to beat (against) all our competition,” Hanger said. “If we could have that team (that played) Triad and Alton, how we played then, I want that team back for the end of the season.
“We just need to play to our ability and not think, ‘Oh, they’re probably better than us. We just need to drop back.’ No. We need to push forward and keep going.”