College Sports

Second-half goals lift Blue Storm into Region 24 semifinals

It took a little longer than coach Juergen Huettner would have liked but the Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm finally finished on Sunday in its first round Region 24 playoff game.

Sophomore Alyssa Houck scored off a sharp angle with just over 29 minutes left to give her team the lead and Mikayla McCarthy added an insurance tally four minutes later as the Blue Storm defeated Illinois Central College 2-0 before a small turnout at SWIC.

Despite having numerous chances to score and holding Illinois Central to just one shot on goal all day, SWIC found itself still looking for its first goal when Houck, a Freeburg graduate, hit what looked to be a pass intended for Kailey Duncan on the left side of the field.

However, the pass hit the left goalpost and went into the net for the only goal the Blue Storm (12-5) would need.

“We asked Kailey if she deflected it or what happened but, as honest as she is, she said that she said she didn’t touch it,” Huettner said. “But it looked like Alyssa (Houck) was trying to pass the ball.”

There was no doubt who scored the Blue Storm’s second goal as McCarthy, a Collinsville graduate, hit a hard shot from 25-yards out which got past the Illinois Central goalie. The Blue Storm defense, which has been airtight the second half of the season, didn’t allow Illinois Central College past midfield often and gave their visitors no chance to score.

“The defense has been outstanding since we moved people around and put Claire (Stark) and Allison Pritchard back there. They’ve done a tremendous job for us,” Huettner said.

“We had some chances to score in the first half and we just didn’t finish. That’s been our downfall a lot this season and in game like this against a quality opponent like ICC when you don’t score and the game goes on, you start to get a little concerned. Fortunately, Alyssa and Mikayla were able to score for us.”

The win moves the fourth-seeded Blue Storm into the Region 24 semifinals on Thursday at top-seed Lewis and Clark College in Godfrey.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean