Belleville West's girls soccer team took its first step toward claiming the city championship Thursday night.
Facing city-rival Althoff before a large crowd and in windy conditions, the visiting Maroons scored two goals in the first half and another in the second to post a 3-0 victory.
West will look to secure the city crown at home against Belleville East on April 19.
"This win was really huge for our team, especially it being the first leg of the city championship," said West's senior goalie Bailey Redden, who made a monumental save on a breakaway early in the second half to preserve a 2-0 lead. "It's definitely a big confidence booster."
Maroons coach Jason Mathenia was pleased with his team's performance, as the Maroons improved to 9-2-1.
"It was a tough, well-fought game tonight," Mathenia said. "We defended well. We were fortunate our back line held them in check. Althoff's a good team. They're ranked No. 1 in small schools for a reason."
Senior Taylor Mathenia paced West with two goals, giving the Southeast Missouri State recruit 14 on the season. Junior Courtney Vollmer notched the other goal.
Redden, also a SEMO recruit, posted her ninth shutout of the season.
"We rely on her; she's one of the best in the area without a doubt," Mathenia said.
Althoff, meanwhile, dropped to 8-2-2. The Crusaders played most of the contest without senior Jessica Hoffman, who suffered a hamstring injury in the first five minutes. Hoffman entered Thursday's action with 13 goals and 10 assists.
"That kind of put a wrench in the whole thing," Althoff coach Juergen Huettner said. "Offensively, we didn't have the punch we were hoping we could have against them with our speed. We couldn't use it by losing her. I think overall we played a good game. I think the game was a lot closer than the score indicated."
Mathenia's first goal with 28 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first half put the Maroons in front 1-0. Then, with less than one minute left in the first half, Vollmer scored to give the Maroons a 2-0 advantage and momentum heading into halftime.
"That was our game plan coming in here; we needed to score early, which we did," Jason Mathenia said. "We were hoping to get one some point after the first one early. To get it right at the closing moments of the first half was very good for us to go into halftime up 2-0."
Althoff missed a golden opportunity to cut into the lead shortly after halftime when Redden made an excellent save on sophomore Kyleigh Hebel's breakaway.
"It turns the game (if we score there)," Huettner said. "She used her speed, and she got in there and got a shot off. It just didn't amount to anything."
Taylor Mathenia's second goal, which came with just less than 25 minutes remaining, put the finishing touches on West's victory.
"We obviously were really concerned about Mathenia — rightfully so; she scored two goals," Huettner said. "But I thought we did a good job marking her."
West resumes action at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Columbia, while Althoff plays host to Gibault at 5 p.m. Saturday.