Winning a conference championship is just a precursor to the regional tournament for some teams. That isn’t the case at Collinsville.
The Kahoks celebrated their fifth consecutive Southwestern Conference title in girls soccer Thursday as they blanked Granite City 3-0. All three goals came in the second half.
“It’s always a goal,” Collinsville coach Clay Smith said. “I know some people don’t think it’s a huge deal, but we do. Our conference is one of the toughest in the state, in my opinion. I’m proud of these girls. They deserve it. They’ve worked hard. They go 6-0 in the conference and now we can continue forward and get better and prepare for the postseason.”
Seniors Mikayla McCarthy and Sophia Sharos scored the first two goals for Collinsville (10-2-1 overall, 6-0 SWC) during a 43-second span. Sophomore Andrea Frerker added a penalty kick in the final two minutes after a Granite City foul in the box.
“It’s a big deal to us,” Sharos said of the league crown. “It means a lot to the program and it does make a statement to areas and teams around us, saying we want to be here and we’re good – and to watch out for us. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life. It’s awesome.”
Even though it seems routine for the Kahoks to win the title, Sharos said nothing is further from the truth.
“It’s teamwork,” she said. “It’s all of us working hard together and putting in the time in practice, extra days ... to pull this off.”
Granite City (4-7-1, 1-3) played even with the Kahoks in the first half and the first 20 minutes of the second half. But Collinsville got the only goal it needed at 61 minutes, 47 seconds when Sharos flighted in a ball from the left corner that was headed in from the doorstep by McCarthy, giving her a team-leading 10th goal.
It was just like the Kahoks drew it up at halftime.
“At halftime, it was a big key word in our locker room of having patience on the ball, trying to get that ball diaganolly across the field,” Smith said. “Mikayla was double-teamed all night. She didn’t ever put her head down, which is great on Mikayla’s part. She kept on working, made a great run and got behind them. It was a great ball flighted in and a great finish.”
Junior Kitty Besserman’s free kick found Sharos for a goal from deep in the box at 62:30, pushing the Kahoks’ lead to 2-0 and giving Sharos her eighth goal of the campaign.
“Kitty makes sure her balls are goal-scoring opportunities. She does a very good job of placing them,” said Sharos, one of the best players in the metro-east. “I knew I had a chance (to score). I just went for it . They weren’t marking tight, so I squeezed in there and headed it in.
“We wanted to get more on the board. We didn’t want to stop at one. We needed a comfortable lead to make sure we were OK with winning this conference championship.”
Frerker’s penalty kick made it 3-0 at 78:42. It was her third goal of the season.
Granite City coach Ken Prazma said the Kahoks’ first goal was “disheartening.”
“It was a great play by the girl that headed it in,” Prazma said of McCarthy. “It was unfortunate. That girl was in the right place at the right time. Our keeper (senior Gabbie Hartin) at least got her hands on it. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.
“The second one, (the Kakoks) are big and they’re good in the air. That was the tough one. That took a little more wind out of the girls. And they were tired. I didn’t do much subbing. Our bench may not be quite as deep as theirs is.”
Junior Julie Scheiter had the shutout in goal for Collinsville, which will close the regular season with seven nonconference games before the regional begins.
“We have a lot of smart players,” Smith said. “I’m blessed with a smart team behind me and they understand what I’m talking about. They get it and they can find holes and they’re smart with the ball. They make me look good.”