Big hits, kicks and jumps
For over 79 minutes in the battle for the Belleville city soccer championship Monday, Belleville East goalie Sophie Wellinghoff was the dominant player on the field as she stopped numerous Althoff scoring chances.
With one shot in the final eight seconds, Althoff junior forward Liesl Whitener changed all that.
Whitener beat Wellinghoff with a shot from 12 yards out with eight seconds remaining to give Althoff a dramatic 2 -1 win and the Belleville city championship.
“I think what happened was that there were a bunch of passes and somehow the ball got through and found the back of the net,’’ Whitener said. “We were due because earlier in the half we had several chances that we didn’t convert on.
“This means a lot to us. We really wanted to do it for the seniors because it been awhile since we had won the city championship outright.”
High-scoring sophomore Julia O’Neill also scored for Althoff (13-4-1), which led 1-0 at halftime. But with Wellinghoff making at least six diving saves in the final 40 minute period, including three against O’Neill, the Lancers (7-10) were able to stay in the game.
The Lancers tied the game with 23 minutes remaining. A Crusaders player was called for a hand ball in the box and Lancers junior forward Gracie English followed with a goal on the penalty kick to knot the score at 1.
But eight seconds away from sharing the city championship, Whitener made sure the trophy will rest in the Althoff trophy case for the next 365 days.
“We’ve got to go over and get the trophy from (Belleville West) coach Jason Mathenia. He still has it,’’ Althoff coach Juergen Huettner joked after the game. “It was a very good game for both teams but I thought we had the better of the action for most of the night. East is very quick on top and we had to be ready for that.
“We squandered too many chances, though. But in the end we made the play. Emelia (O’Neill) did a nice job of passing the ball through and Liesl converted on the shot.’’
As the ball went into the back of the net for the Crusaders’ winning goal, Wellinghoff simply put her hands on her knees and bowed her head in disbelief.
“Sophie (Wellinghoff) played great. She kept us in it with a number of outstanding saves, including one here in the last few minutes where she had to change direction,’’ Lancers coach James Chambers said. “The last play was just a case of a lack of defending and not reacting well on the 50-50 ball in the middle, getting a little lazy because of the time remaining on the clock and Liesl (Whitener) getting through and making a play.’’