The Columbia Eagles moved a step closer to the state tournament Friday when they defeated Marion 3-1 to claim the Class 2A Columbia Regional.
Columbia (22-1-1) controlled the game early and had a 3-0 lead before Marion’s Adam Newman scored a late goal.
“Part of our game plan for tonight was to come out attacking,” Eagles coach Jason Mathenia said. “We’ve been in their shoes before. Anytime you have to travel, it takes a while to get going and settled in.”
Columbia will advance and play Alton Marquette on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Columbia Sectional. Marquette defeated Chatham Glenwood 1-0 in the Jacksonville Regional championship Friday. Columbia defeated Marquette 6-1 earlier this season in Alton.
Mathenia said his Eagles will be ready to play the Explorers.
“Our message this entire season, we take things one game at a time,” Mathenia said.
Columbia’s latest win marks the first time in school history that the Eagles have captured a Class 2A soccer regional title. Last season, Columbia won the Class 1A state title.
On Friday night, they faced a difficult road in their bid for a repeat, beginning with their opening match against Marion (16-5-1), which knocked off Triad 5-1 in the regional semifinals.
Columbia has now outscored its opponents 128-12 this season.
The Eagles took a 1-0 early on a goal by Brett Meyer 3:21 into the game. Sean Rickey picked up the lone assist on a restart, when he found a wide-open Meyer, whose 30-yard shot found the back of Marion net.
Meyer credited Rickey for the goal.
“I just put it in the back of the net,” he said.
Mathenia said his teams works on set pieces all of the time.
“That’s why Sean (Rickey) and Adam (Becker) are on our corners. They are creative enough and the read game enough,” Mathenia said.
Rickey’s 25th goal of the season extended Columbia’s lead to 2-0 with a hard shot from the top of the box about 12 minutes later.
“Sean is very tough to cover,” Mathenia said. “And he has one heck of a shot.”
Rickey’s shot and overall play impressed Marion coach Jarred Dobbs.
“He has a great shot,” Dobbs said. “There was nothing (Jacob Rice) could do about (Rickey’s goal). But I don’t think there are a lot of goalies who could have stopped that shot.”
A goal by Dalton Verret with 3:20 to play sealed the Eagles’ win. Verret scored after accepting a perfect pass by Rickey.
Rickey felt it was important to come out strong early against Marion.
“We were really on tonight,” Rickey said. “We were ready from the start.”