Belleville East goalie on her team's tie with West
A tense Southwestern Conference showdown between the Belleville East and Belleville West girls soccer teams Thursday night fittingly ended in a 1-1 deadlock in a Southwestern Conference game.
The Lancers (8-2-3, 3-0-2) scored first in the opening half and maintained the 1-0 advantage until the visiting Maroons (9-3-2, 1-1-2) tied the score late in regulation.
The teams battled through two overtime periods before settling on the tie.
"They had the momentum in both overtimes," said Lancers coach James Chambers, whose squad also went two overtimes on Tuesday in a 2-2 stalemate with Granite City. "At that point, we were just trying to continue to fight and battle through it mentally and physically. Our girls played really well."
Both squads had chances in the extra sessions. Belleville West senior Taylor Mathenia hit the top of the goal early in the first overtime stanza. Then, in the second overtime, Belleville West's senior goalie, Bailey Redden, made a fingertip save on Lancers senior Grace Brauer with 5:06 remaining.
Overall, the Maroons controlled the action most of the second half and both overtimes, something coach Jason Mathenia attributed to adjustments made at halftime.
"We made some adjustments in the middle of the field," said Mathenia, whose team fell to Columbia 3-1 on Tuesday. "We kept rotating our wings, and we just kept bringing energy to the game. In the first half, we allowed them entirely too much time to play, and we needed to press them more, put them under pressure and just keep going at them.
"That's what we were able to do that second half and both overtimes."
With Thursday's results, the Belleville city championship still must be settled. If East beats Althoff on Monday, Chambers' squad will share city honors with the Maroons. However, if the Crusaders beat the Lancers, then West, which defeated Althoff 3-0 on April 12, will secure its fourth straight city championship.
"That's definitely a big game," East senior goalie Grace Tantillo said of facing the Crusaders. "They've had a really great season so far. Even though we're tired, we're ready to get back on the field tomorrow after school and start preparing for them."
Brauer's 17th goal of the season put the Lancers up 1-0 with 30:21 left in the first half. The Maroons nearly drew even with 13:45 left in the half, but Tantillo made a terrific save on Taylor Mathenia's shot to keep East in front.
"Grace has been an absolute superstar for us," Chambers said. "She doesn't always get the credit that she deserves, but she's a big part of our success this year, coming up with huge saves in key moments of the game."
After halftime, the Maroons turned up the pressure, producing several excellent scoring chances. West finally broke through with 4:15 remaining when senior Melanie Kulig scored on a header, tying the score at 1-1. Junior Courtney Vollmer earned the assist.
"We were very pleased with the girls. They left it all out on the field tonight," Jason Mathenia said.
Both teams resume action Monday, as East entertains Althoff at 4 p.m. and West faces Gibault at 6:30 p.m. at Oerter Park in Columbia.