Any risk of the Waterloo Bulldogs overlooking an opponent during the soccer playoffs probably was minimized Tuesday night.
That’s when the Bulldogs saw Alton Marquette defeat Columbia 2-1 in the semifinals of the Class 2A Columbia Sectional. The Explorers had lost to Columbia 6-1 in the regular season.
The Bulldogs (21-3-1) will get their turn against Marquette (14-6-3) in the sectional-championship game at 6 p.m. Friday. The teams haven’t met since Aug. 30, 2014, in the Carbondale Tournament, a game Waterloo won 1-0 on a goal by Kane Osterhage.
“All records are kind of thrown out the window and you’ve got to be ready to play the night you’ve got to play,” Bulldogs coach Chad Holden said. “It’s kind of like the NCAA Tournament. It’s what the postseason is all about. You’re going to see upsets galore. You might beat a team easily in the regular season, but the postseason is a totally different adventure.
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“That’s the beauty of sports. If the favored team always won, it would never be exciting.”
On paper, at least, the Bulldogs are favored based on their list of accomplishments, which include championships in the Carbondale Tournament, the Mississippi Valley Conference and the Carbondale Regional. Their only MVC loss was a 3-2 decision at Triad on Oct. 15.
Osterhage, a senior forward, has 26 goals and 18 assists, while junior forward Ben Huels has 25 goals and seven assists. Seniors Clay Metz (15 goals, five assists) and Ethan Lewis (five goals, nine assists) and junior Philip Most (eight goals, four assists) also are active presences. Junior keeper Trevor Coplin has 12 shutouts and a 0.62 goals-against average.
“They have a big team, they’re fast and are another team that’s had a great season,” Marquette coach Jeremy Sanfilippo said of the Bulldogs. “Waterloo just knocked off Quincy (Notre Dame), who everybody felt had a good shot at winning state this year. I’m just going to keep telling the boys: ‘We’ve got to keep outworking people and doing the best we can do as a team.’ As long as we go out and work hard, we can hang with these teams.
“I have confidence in my defense. We’re just going to have to stay with them and we’re just going to have to keep them from being dangerous in the box.”
The Explorers, who have won eight of nine, are led by junior Zach Weinman (23 goals, eight assists), freshman Chris Hartrich (12 goals, 15 assists) and senior Adam Hammond (10 goals, four assists). Hammond and senior Collin Dunn scored against Columbia. Senior goalie Brandon Sanfilippo has 12 shutouts.
“Their goalie and No. 5 (Weinman) are their main players,” Holden said. “They were solid last year when we saw them in the Carbondale Tournament. I even remember making a little note about No. 5 after that game last year, that he was going to be a handful in years to come, not knowing whether we would see them or not, but just in case. Here we are.”
Huels scored two goals and Osterhage had one on Tuesday as Waterloo defeated Quincy Notre Dame 3-2 in the semifinals. Huels’ second goal snapped a 2-2 tie in the second half.
“We were surprised to be up 2-0, but when we were up 2-0, we kept telling the guys at halftime, ‘We aren’t comfortable with this. Don’t be excited. We’ve got another 40 minutes to play,’” Holden said. “And what a stressful 40 minutes that was.”
Before the sectional, many anticipated a rematch between Columbia and Waterloo, an exciting proposition to Monroe County fans. The Eagles defeated the Bulldogs 2-1 in the CYC Tournament in September and another close game was expected to unfold. But Marquette didn’t follow the script.
“We’re just excited where we’re at right now,” Holden said. “We wouldn’t have minded having a rematch with Columbia. But there’s nothing we can do about that. It’s out of our hands. Right now, our focus is Alton Marquette. ... We’ve just got to be smart and play disciplined. Hopefully, we’ll come out with a ‘W.’”