The Quincy Blue Devils, runners up last season in Illinois Class 3A, were too much for the young Belleville East Lancers in the semifinals of the O'Fallon Regional Soccer Tournament Tuesday.
Dailton Gilbert and Jaeden Smith scored two goals each to lead Quincy to a 4-1 win. The Blue Devils (13-5-2) advance to the regional championship game Saturday.
"I would say Quincy is one of the two best schools we have played all year," said Belleville East coach James Chambers. "Obviously, this isn't the way we wanted to the season to end, but losing to a quality opponent like Quincy is OK. We're excited about next year."
Junior midfielder Devin Chambers gave the Lancers an early 1-0 lead, but Quincy controlled possession most of the way thereafter.
The Blue Devils tied the game on a goal by Gilbert at the 27:05 mark of the first half. Then Smith, a sophomore, put Quincy on top 2-1 by redirecting a free kick from Grant Higgins.
Quincy threatened throughout the remainder of the second half, but Belleville East sophomore goalie Nick Hayes made several spectacular saves to keep the Lancers close.
He stopped Gilbert from the top of the goal box with a right-handed save that deflected off the cross bar, then stopped a follow-up shot in traffic. Midway through the second half, Gilbert took a pass from Smith undefended in front of the goal, but was stopped again by Hayes.
"He made three huge saves — two in the first half and one early in the second — to really keep us in it," Chambers said. "At that point we were still close and he made saves that helped us. We were there for about 60 minutes then the gates opened up a little bit."
Hayes couldn't stop Smith on a direct penalty kick, however, and Quincy took a 3-1 lead with 18:33 left. Chambers put the game out of reach with his second goal at the 3:36 mark.
East's season ends at 2-18-1, but the Lancers have progressed, Hayes said. The Lancers return nine starters including the sophomore goal keeper.
"I think our turning point was at the Chatham Tournament, where we got our first win," Hayes said. We built some momentum after that and I think we moved forward.
"Our season overall was a disappointment, but we took the right steps."