Triad girls soccer coach Matt Bettlach knew going in that beating Waterloo for the third time this season wasn't going to be easy, let alone on the Bulldogs' home turf with a Class 2A regional championship at stake.
But there is a kind of certainty that comes when a strong-legged senior is left wide open with an open look at the goal. It was at about the 9:05 mark of the second half that Bettlach knew the odds would soon turn toward his team's favor.
Triad midfielder Danielle Wilde let loose a laser beam from 25-yards out that got over the head of the the Waterloo goal keeper and just under the cross bar to give the Knights a 1-0 victory and advancement to their own sectional.
"When that ball popped out to her and I saw her roll it forward a little, I knew," Bettlach said. "She strikes the ball like you're supposed to strike it and nine times out of 10 it's going to be on frame. As soon as she hit it, I just knew it was going in. "
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Wilde had a good feeling about it too.
"I just saw the open space in front of me and nobody was there so I went with it," she said. "That's honestly my golden spot. That's where I score all my goals so that's what I was shooting for."
Triad, 18-5, next plays , winners of the Springfield Regional in Troy Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Waterloo's season ends at 20-4 record, an impressive record for a team with just two seniors. The Bulldogs' first loss of the season came against Class 3A Edwardsville. The next three came against the conference rival Knights.
"If they can beat us three times, they deserve it," said Waterloo coach Chad Holden, who completed his 16th season. "We just told the girls there are more painful things in life than losing a soccer game and they'll always have the memories of being on a 20-win team. I asked if any of them thought we'd be 20-4 and not one of them raised their hand."
Bettlach said if his Knights had any advantage over the Bulldogs at all it's experience, not skill. Triad's roster includes 10 seniors versus Waterloo's two.
"I knew we match up kind of evenly, but I felt like we had the experience," Bettlach said. "I've got 10 seniors and a handful of juniors -- kids that have been there for Triad in the past. I wanted them to use their experience in this type of game and this atmosphere to their advantage."
Triad had the upper hand in shots on goal during a scoreless first half. Waterloo sophomore goal keeper Kathryn Finnerty made seven first-half saves including one on a point-blank by Triad's Kalie Gibbs at the 23:56 mark.
Triad's best first-half scoring opportunity came with 6:32 left when Allison Wendt sent an open shot over the goal.
Waterloo had just three shots on goal in the first half, all of which were stopped by Triad goal keeper Skye Clark.
Waterloo was more aggressive offensively in the second half, but was still out-shot by Triad.
Finnerty denied chances by Meaghan Smith and Wendt and got help from her defense. Mollie Zeisset and Sierra Berg both cleared balls from the goal line.
"(Finnerty is) an aggressive goalie," Holden said. "She did a great job and she's got a great defense in front of her that limits shots from the other team."