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Baker leads Collinsville past Normal Community in Class 3A soccer sectional final

Motivated by the painful memory of a season-ending loss a year ago, Collinsville senior midfielder Zane Baker and the Kahoks were not to be denied on a cold, rainy Friday night at Collinsville High School.

Three days after his goal with 3.7 seconds made the difference in a semifinal win over Edwardsville, Baker scored a goal and assisted on another as the Kahoks defeated Normal Community 2-1 in the title game of the Class 3A Collinsville Soccer Sectional Tournament..

One of the leaders of an experienced Kahoks squad, Baker split two defenders to beat Pioneers goalie Matthew Wells to tie the game midway in the fiirst half. He then sent a perfect crossing pass to Luke Liljegren who scored the go-ahead goal with just over 15 minutes left in the first half.

The Pioneers, who defeated Collinsville 4-2 in the sectional title game a year ago, never really threatened in the final 55 minutes. Collinsvile (17-5-2) continued to put constant pressure on the Pioneers defense and never allowed Normal’s offense to get on track.

“We always look for gives ourselves a little extra motivation. Edwardsville is our rival and we don’t really need any extra motivation when we play them,’’ Baker said. “Normal beating us last year in this game and ending our season., we wanted to get back at them for that. We were really ready to play tonight and we put a lot of pressure on them.’’

With the win, Collinsville (17-5-2) advances to the Bradley Bourbonnais Super-Sectional on Tuesday where it will take on Chicago Mount Carmel at 6:30 p.m. Mount Carmel defeated Harvey Thornton 2-0 to win the Orland Park Sandburg Sectional.

Normal Community (15-5-7) struck first. The Pioneers took a 1-0 lead with 33 minutes left in the first half on a goal by Drew Doellman, then nearly scored a second goal four minutes later. But when Baker split two defenders and beat Pioneers goalie Matthew Wells from 18-yards out, the score was tied and Collinsville had the momentum.

“He’s had a great week and he’s kept a very level head about it,’’ Kahoks coach Rob Lugge said of Baker. “This team has been very focused on their goals.

“We had a little bit of a down time earlier this year when he (Baker) was out with the injury. But since he’s been back,we’ve had a nice stretch here. This means a lot. I’ve worked with this group before when I was the junior-varsity coach and it just means a lot to see them have so much success here now.’’

Liljegren’s goal was a shot from about 22 yards out and came with 15 minutes 58 seconds left. Trailing 2-1, Normal coach Matt Chapman thought his Pioneers would make a push in the final half. That push never came as the Kahoks offense dominated the play. Although no goals were scored, the Kahoks put heavy pressure on Norrmal’s defense.

“I thought we would have some chances in the second half. They just kept us pinned way back,’’ Chapman said. “He (Baker) just made a tremendous effort on his goal. They were just the better team tonight.’’