It was a forgettable return to the girls state soccer tournament Friday for the Collinsville Kahoks.
Making their first appearance at state since 2002, the Kahoks allowed three first-half goals and lost 3-1 to Neuqua Valley in the semifinals of the Class 3A tourney at North Central College.
Senior Mikayla McCarthy had Collinsville’s only goal late in the second half.
“They’ve been to state before,” Collinsville junior defender/midfielder Kitty Besserman said of the Wildcats, who improved to 19-3-2. “I think it was just nerves (for us). It was our mistakes, and we could have fixed them. But we’ll get it back (Saturday).”
Collinsville (21-4-1) will play Barrington (21-2-4) in the third-place match at 5 p.m. Saturday. The Kahoks never have placed higher than fourth in the tournament.
Kahoks coach Clay Smith pointed out that his team outshot Neuqua Valley 15-12, but finishing those opportunities proved to be a problem for Collinsville.
“We had a great chance in the first minute and a half in the game to go up 1-0,” Smith said. “That would have settled us down immensely. Then they got a quick counter and we had a communication breakdown in the back on their first touch and their first shot was a goal. In the state tournament, it’s hard to recover from that one.
“The first and second goals were preventable. They were both our fault. We pressed on and we continued to create goal-scoring opportunities. But you have to find the back of the net at this time of the year, especially in the final four, to have a shot. That’s what it came down to.”
The Kahoks also endured the loss of senior all-state midfielder Sophia Sharos, who suffered a broken right leg with just over 30 minutes to play in the game. Sharos, a Tennessee-Martin recruit, collided with senior goalie Hannah Parrish of Neuqua Valley and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital after a delay of about 20 minutes.
“It was just awful,” Besserman said. “She’s our team leader. She’s a huge part of our success. It was a huge shocker. We wanted to regroup and play for her and get a goal, at least. We’re going to try really hard to win our game (Saturday) just for her.
“When she was on the stretcher, she said, ‘Keep playing.’ That’s what we wanted. We had the heart and desire to keep going. She was in a lot of pain, but she wanted us to keep playing.”
Collinsville sophomore Andrea Frerker’s shot sailed over the crossbar in the first 25 seconds. From that point, it was mostly downhill for the Kahoks.
Senior Lauren Ciesla, an Illinois recruit, gave Neuqua Valley the lead for good when she took a nice pass on the run from freshman Alyssa Bombacino and scored on a one-on-one opportunity against Kahoks sophomore keeper Morgan Lerch to make it 1-0 at 1:34.
“I saw Lauren cut up the middle and I knew right away she was going toward the goal,” Bombacino said. “I looked up, played it to her and she had a nice finish.”
Sophomore Emily Holten almost tied the game for the Kahoks two minutes later, but Parrish made a diving save to her right to maintain the Wildcats’ lead.
Bombacino fed freshman Jamie Goralski, who quickly gave it up to senior Kiley Czerwinski, an Illinois State recruit, on the right side for a goal that eluded Lerch and made it 2-0 at 11:47.
“They were moving a little slow,” Czerwinski said of the Collinsville defenders, who had been on a bus for more than four hours before the game. “We do have some speed up top. ... We just wanted to keep going and keep attacking.”
Bombacino hit a back pass to junior Anna Toersloev, whose high shot from 30 yards away slipped under the crossbar to build Neuqua Valley’s lead to 3-0 at 35:04.
“It was nice to get an early goal. Then the other team has to play catch-up,” Neuqua Valley coach Joe Moreau said. “To be honest with you, I thought (Collinsville) had the better of the play. They had some very dangerous (chances). Hannah made a great save right after we scored that would have knotted it up. She made a couple of other nice (saves).”
McCarthy’s goal made it 3-1 at 76:57. McCarthy ripped a high shot inside the left post after a Wildcats turnover in the box. It hardly was enough to salvage the day.
“Soccer is unforgiving sometimes and I think today was a huge example of that, in more ways than one,” said Smith, still shaken after the injury to Sharos.
“It was a tough bench,” he said. “I’m going to have to do my job and get them motivated to come back and play the third-place game. You lose your all-stater for two years and your team captain for two years ... The girls are upset. It’s not good. We’re a tough team and a good family, so we’ll move on and prepare for (Saturday) and see what we can do.”