Only a sophomore, Jimmy Monken wasn’t about to let the eight seniors on the Althoff soccer team suffer a loss on Senior Night on Thursday at GCS Ballpark.
Zipping around the artificial turf and home of the Gateway Grizzlies like he owned it, Monken set up two Crusaders goals in the final 21 minutes as Althoff rallied for a 2-2 tie with Belleville East in a nonconference game.
Althoff (8-10-3) trailed 2-1 with just under 17 minutes when Monken was fouled while trying to make a move in the box, which resulted in a penalty kick. Seconds later, Crusaders buried the penalty kick into the bottom right hand corner of the goal to tie the score at 2.
Belleville East had two good chances to break the tie late in the game — including a shot from a near impossible angle by sophomore Hunter Peppers — which hit the goal post with under 12 minutes remaining. But the Lancers (2-12-3) were forced to settle for a tie after building a 2-0 lead.
The Turning point
Belleville East led 1-0 at haftime following a goal by Cameron Whitehead and increased its lead to 2-0 when senior Kyle Fernandes scored from point-blank range with less then four minutes gone in the second half.
Monken, held in check by the Lancers defense for much of the first 50 minutes of the game, shook loose near the Lancers goal and slid a nifty pass to Dillon Birdsong who gently put the ball into the goal as Althoff closed to within 2-1.
“Dillon (Birdsong) was cutting and moving well all night and Jimmy (Monken) made a nice pass to him and he finished,” Crusaders coach Joe Burchett said. “A 2-0 lead is tough to defend because if the team trailing happes to get a quick goal like we did tonight, it changed the complexion of the game and changed the mommentum. When we got the first goal, it got us going and back in the game.
“I’m proud of this team. Down 2-0, we kept battling and kept attacking. Jimmy (Monken) just doesn’t stop and while I couldn’t tell whether or not he got fouled on the play which set up the tying goal, we’ll take it. Justin (Robinson) hit a great shot on the penalty kick.”
East coach Lasley
Struggling to score goals all year, the Lancers seemed destined for their second straight win after beating Granite City 1-0 earlier in the week. Moving well, East had numerous chances throughout the game on Thursday but were stopped by a solid Crusaders defensive effort.
Still, East had a 2-0 lead and was in control of the game until Monken and the Crusaders offense came alive.
“He’s like a waterbug,” Lancers coach Mark Lasley said of Monken. “He’s very quick and fast but I thought we did a good job all night. “We had some chances late in the game. We just couldn’t put in the net. We’ve played well here the last week or s and that’s good ass we get ready for the postseason. I think the team just realized that its getting late and if we didn’t start to make things happen, it was going to be too late.”
Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean