Coming off their biggest letdown of the season, the Gibault Hawks rebounded with a vengeance Saturday.
Senior Ben Mueth scored three goals to power the Hawks to a 6-1 victory over Cornerstone Christian Academy, of Bloomington, in the third-place game of the Class 1A state soccer tournament at EastSide Centre.
Gibault suffered a tough 1-0 loss to Normal University High in the semifinals Friday night, a game in which coach Matt Reeb believed his Hawks had been “cheated” by officiating.
“We were so sad after last night, and heartbroken,” Mueth said after the victory Saturday. “But we came out today and we worked real hard. At least we won one game.”
Playing for third place, especially when all eyes are trained on winning the championship, can prove a challenging endeavor. But it didn’t appear that way for the Hawks (16-8-1).
I think we just took that anger and sadness and worked hard with it. We turned it into some goals.
Gibault Hawks senior Ben Mueth on bouncing back from a tough loss Friday
Gibault led 2-1 at halftime on a goal by Mueth and a penalty kick by senior Dalton Scace, then overwhelmed the Cyclones in the second half as Mueth scored twice and sophomore Karson Huels and junior Tim Murphy tallied one goal apiece.
“I think we just took that anger and sadness and worked hard with it. We turned it into some goals,” said Mueth, who finished the season with 25 goals.
It’s the fourth consecutive year in which a team from Monroe County has brought home a trophy from the state tournament. Gibault won the Class 1A title in 2013, a feat duplicated by Columbia in 2014. Last year, Waterloo won the Class 2A championship.
“We did a lot of good things,” Reeb said. “We battled through some injuries and an emotional letdown from the night before. I’m proud of our guys, the way they bounced back. We could have easily had no motivation and just give in and quit. But I told them, ‘If we truly feel in our hearts that we’re the best team in the state, we need to come out and take it to this team.’
“That’s what we did.”
We battled through some injuries and an emotional letdown from the night before. I’m proud of our guys, the way they bounced back. We could have easily had no motivation and just give in and quit. But I told them, ‘If we truly feel in our hearts that we’re the best team in the state, we need to come out and take it to this team.’ That’s what we did.
Gibault boys soccer coach Matt Reeb
Cornerstone Academy coach Jeremy Knapp said Gibault had way too much firepower for the Cyclones (22-5-1).
“They’re a tough team, no doubt about it,” said Knapp, whose 21 players represent about one-fifth of the school’s enrollment of a little over 100. “They got on top of us, got some momentum built and kept pouring it on. It’s an excellent team over there. I’m not disappointed with our guys at all. We have nothing to hang our heads about.”
The Hawks were unable to convert Friday in losing to Normal U. High, which defeated Westchester St. Joseph 3-1 to win the state title later Saturday.
Gibault had 13 corner kicks in the semifinal game, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
The Hawks had no such issues Saturday, outshooting Cornerstone Christian 26-12 and converting six times.
“Their emotions were kind of down because we came up here with a mission,” Reeb said. “Obviously, after the first game, we knew we couldn’t accomplish that mission. Even though it didn’t go our way and didn’t get to claim the state title, I still think we needed to make a statement in the third-place game, and we did.”
Mueth scored inside the left post at 3 minutes, 16 seconds to make it 1-0. Cornerstone Academy tied it at 1 on a goal in front by sophomore Moses Kabuswe on a corner kick by senior Josiah Graham.
Scace was fouled in the right side of the box at 24:51, and his penalty kick put the Hawks ahead to stay at 2-1.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t have gotten that (Friday) night when I thought we earned it,” Reeb said, referring to a no-call after Scace appeared to be tripped in the box. “If you get enough dangerous chances in the box and people have to foul you, eventually it’s going to come and they’re going to call the PK. It finally came today.”
A 40-yard free kick by Huels found Mueth in the box for a header to make it 3-1 at 53:21. Huels made it 4-1 when he tapped in shot from close range off a corner kick by senior Kyle Rocca at 67:47. Mueth’s shot went through the goalie’s hands to make it 5-1 at 71:27, and Murphy finished the scoring with a header on a pass from sophomore Logan Doerr at 76:27.
It was Murphy’s first goal of the season.
“We generated a lot of success,” Reeb said. “Kyle and Dalton had really good games. They battled through some injuries. Karson Huels played well in the middle. This senior group, it was their last game. We wanted to go out with a win. This was one of the best teams I’ve ever coached.”