Edwardsville showed off its speed, skill and depth Saturday.
The Tigers, playing without injured seniors Matt Busse (left foot) and Riley Patterson (back), got goals from seniors Michael Picchiotti and Michael Glisson and junior Alec Mills in a 3-0 victory over the previously unbeaten Normal Ironmen.
Senior Mohammad Hamad assisted on the goals by Picchiotti and Mills, while Mills assisted on the goal by Glisson. Senior Daniel Picchiotti had the shutout in goal, with junior Michael Hoelting preserving it for the final 11 minutes as the Tigers improved to 11-0-3.
“We needed this one really bad in the sense that they hadn’t lost a game yet,” Hamad said of the Ironmen (6-1-5). “We knew we had to show it to them. We’re trying to keep a clean sheet as long as we can, go undefeated and hope the best for us in the playoffs.”
The game was played on the Tigers’ synthetic surface as temperatures climbed into the low-90s with high humidity. Players frequented the water tank throughout the game, and officials stopped the game halfway through each half for a designated break.
Edwardsville scored the only goal it needed at 20 minutes, 31 seconds. Hamad made a 30-yard run down the left side and hit a shot that appeared to be headed into the net. Michael Picchiotti rushed onto the ball and made sure it crossed the line to make it 1-0.
Mills made it 2-0 at 21:57, with Hamad again in the middle of the action. Hamad hit a blistering shot that was saved, but not controlled, by Ironmen junior goalie Austin Woodside. The ball went to Mills’ feet, and Mills easily finished his eighth goal of the season.
The Tigers scored their final goal at 40:48, with Glisson making it 3-0 from close range on a feed from Mills.
“When it comes to heat, it’s just like playing on maybe a small field, maybe like playing on certain grass fields these days. It just can be an equalizer,” Edwardsville coach Mark Heiderscheid said. “So there’s no question that to get the two goals early, and then when it’s the second half and you get that third one, you know it’s going to be very comfortable.
“They haven’t lost. They’re a very well-coached team, very well-organized. It’s just that we had a few more players that were out there that could punch the ball in the net. That becomes the difference. (But) it’s not a big mystery why they would be undefeated.”
Normal coach Matt Chapman felt the same way about the Tigers.
“I thought the first half was a very even half,” Chapman said. “They got behind us three times and scored twice, but at halftime, we were very positive. We were like, ‘Hey, guys, you’ve had some opportunities. You’re going to get in there if you just make that final connecting pass.’
“Then the second half, they came out and just dominated us. They completely controlled the second half. I’m sure we got worn down, but they were the better team by far in the second half. They were much crisper with their passing and were a little more aggressive winning balls. They showed the quality of their team in the second half.”
Protecting the keeper
Edwardsville outshot Normal 16-3. The Ironmen had a goal disallowed when officials ruled they fouled Daniel Picchiotti as he attempted to gain control of the ball deep in the box.
Chapman had no trouble with the call.
“We fouled the goalkeeper,” he said. “I think it was the correct call. We were being a little too physical in the box and they called a foul on one of our guys. It was the correct call. Any time anybody is bumping into a goalkeeper ... it should be a call against the attackers. Goalkeepers deserve a little extra space, in my opinion.”