Edwardsville freshman Sydni Stevens had a step on the defense, and that was the only advantage she needed.
Stevens’ goal from 15 yards out at 67:55 snapped a scoreless tie Friday and lifted the second-seeded Tigers to a 1-0 win over Belleville West in the championship game of the Class 3A Belleville West Regional.
“There were two (West) people standing there, and I didn’t know if they were going to go after (the ball),” Stevens said. “I split them and slotted it far post. I missed a couple up there, so I knew I had to get one soon. ... They’re a very good team. I’m proud of how we played.”
Edwardsville (13-3-2) will play Southwestern Conference champion Collinsville (16-6-1) in the semifinals of the Edwardsville Sectional at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Kahoks advanced Friday with a 5-2 win over Granite City in the title game of the Quincy Regional in Lebanon.
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Collinsville defeated Edwardsville 1-0 in the regular season.
“I think it’s going to be a very tough game, but I think we can work through it,” Stevens said of the rematch with the Kahoks, who placed second in the state tournament last year.
West, which tied Edwardsville 1-1 in two overtimes in the regular season, finished 15-4-2 and won the Belleville city championship.
“They’ve got a good team — a very good team,” Maroons coach Jason Mathenia said of the Tigers. “We felt we created a good number of opportunities ourselves. Unfortunately, none of our opportunities went in the back of the net.”
On the Tigers’ goal, Mathenia said his team “got caught off-guard in that split moment.”
“(Stevens) did a good job on finishing that opportunity they created,” he said. “I’ve been saying it for too many years: Good teams figure out that one little way to capitalize on a moment. I felt we played pretty darn well defensively and limited their chances. There was just one moment they got in behind us and finished the game off.”
The Maroons’ best scoring chance came on a free kick from 19 yards out in the first half. Junior Addison Hanusek’s shot skimmed the top of the crossbar and went out of bounds.
Hanusek rifled a long shot that sailed high in the 75th minute. West had one final opportunity off a corner kick in the waning seconds. A header was popped into the air, however, and Edwardsville quickly cleared the ball as time expired.
Stevens, despite her youth, is Edwardsville’s second-leading scorer with seven goals and five assists.
“Sydni has been doing great all season,” Tigers coach Abby Comerford said. “She got that starting role against Granite City (April 25), and she’s been performing ever since. It’s great to see the underclassmen be able to step up. She worked her way around the defender and took off from there. She’s so quick on and off the ball.”
Comerford was proud of her team’s effort.
“Knowing you’re coming off a tie from playing them last time, you know this is going to be a really close game,” she said. “The girls fought the entire game.”