It hasn’t been the type of season Althoff girls soccer coach Juergen Huettner had in mind, but the Crusaders have a chance for a fresh start in the Class 1A Anna-Jonesboro Regional.
Second-seeded Althoff, which was 8-8-2 entering its final regular-season game Monday night against Marion at McKendree University, will face the eighth-seeded Massac County Patriots in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Union County Soccer Complex in Anna.
A victory by the Crusaders would send them into the championship game against third-seeded Gibault (7-10) or seventh-seeded Anna-Jonesboro, who meet in the other semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. If Althoff and Gibault advance, the title game would likely be played at a neutral site in the metro-east rather than have both teams travel to Anna.
The time, date and location for an Althoff-Gibault matchup would be determined Thursday.
“It’s probably fair to say we’re the favorite to win our game, and I think Gibault can say the same thing,” said Huettner, whose team defeated the Hawks 2-1 on April 23 at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville behind two goals from junior Amanda Kaltwasser.
The winner of the Anna-Jonesboro Regional will play the champion of the Marquette Regional in the semifinals of the Althoff Sectional at 4:30 p.m. May 18 at SWIC.
Althoff has endured an up-and-down season, winning back-to-back games just once. But it also has lost consecutive games only once.
Huettner still has confidence the Crusaders can get hot when the stakes are at their highest. They have the talent with players like senior defenders Shannon Maitland (four goals, four assists) and Anna Hanger (two goals, six assists) and proven scorers Kaltwasser (16 goals, four assists) and sophomore Jessica Hoffman (11 goals, two assists).
“I thought, with the names we have, we would be better than our record,” Huettner said. “Our record really doesn’t do us justice as far as how good we should be. So, something you’ve got to ask yourself is, ‘Why couldn’t we put (a better) record together?’ We didn’t play too well against Belleville East, we didn’t play well against Belleville West and we were down against Collinsville early in the game when we gave up five goals in the first 20 minutes.
“That being said, I think we can hopefully put it together for the playoffs. I think we have a real good chance in the 1A circuit. Now we’ve got to get the results.”
Gibault, like Althoff, has battled inconsistency. The Hawks won three straight in April, only to then drop three in a row. They enter the playoffs with two wins in their last three games.
First-year coach Hanna Schuermann’s team is led offensively by seniors Abby Hasenstab (six goals, four assists) and Carley Olson (five goals). Sophomore Abby Phelps has a team-best five assists).
“They have a good team,” Huettner said of the Hawks. “They’re senior-loaded. It would be a tough (regional-championship) game, no question.”
The Eagles (12-5-2) are seeded first in the Class 1A Columbia Regional and will face sixth-seeded Wesclin (12-6) in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Columbia, under first-year coach Jamey Bridges, defeated the host Warriors 2-0 on April 8 behind goals from junior Madelyne Juenger and sophomore Taylor Parks.
The Eagles’ losses and ties have come against teams with a combined record of 78-27-9.
“We have high expectations and the girls are hungry,” Bridges said. “The last two years, they’ve lost in PKs (to Gibault in 2015 and Marquette in 2014) in games they felt like they could win. Some of these girls are remembering that. I think we’re ready; I think we’re good.”
In the other Columbia Regional semifinal, fourth-seeded Freeburg (9-9-1) will play sixth-seeded Harrisburg (14-3) at 7 p.m. Freeburg has won seven of its last eight.
The semifinal winners will meet in the championship game at 6 p.m. Friday. The regional winner will face the champion of the Central Regional in the Althoff Sectional semifinals at 4:30 p.m. on May 17.
Columbia has been fighting through injuries and sicknesses. Bridges said junior defender Morgan Glaenzer will miss the game Tuesday because of mono, although she likely would be available Friday if the Eagles reach the title game.
Junior midfielder Madelyne Juenger was sidelined with a back injury in Columbia’s regular-season finale Thursday, a 2-0 victory over visiting O’Fallon. Juenger is expected to play Tuesday. Bridges said a handful of other players have been trying to overcome colds and ear infections.
“We’re going in confident, not arrogant. There’s a big difference,” Bridges said. “If we do the things we know we can do, we’re really good. If we (make) mental mistakes and simple fundamental mistakes, we’re going to get beat. That’s really what it comes down to. ... Now it’s just kind of like, ‘All right. Let the fun begin.’”
Columbia has multiple threats on offense led by junior Blair Wittenbrink (13 goals, four assists). Juenger (seven goals, nine assists), Parks (six goals, one assist) and freshmen Fae Harrell (five goals, 11 assists) and Chloe Graff (five goals, two assists) command respect. Senior goalie Alison Riddle is a difference-maker with 11 shutouts and 91 saves.
Senior defender Allison Murphy is another mainstay for the Eagles.
Wesclin has won three of its last four games. The Warriors’ leading scorers are sophomore Claire Gruenke (15 goals, nine assists) and juniors Olivia Krebs (10 goals, eight assists) and Casey Bell (nine goals, nine assists). Freshman Kaylee Thayer has eight shutouts in goal.
“They’re a young squad,” Bridges said. “Their bench is kind of short. Playing them once, they had a couple of girls who were decent. It’s one of those games where we say, ‘Hey, do what you can do and we’ll be fine.’ But the longer you’re inconsistent, the more confidence you give to your opponent. We’re going to be in trouble (if we do that).”
Bridges relishes being at home for the regional.
“It’s a huge advantage,” he said. “You’re playing on the field that you practice on and you’re playing on field conditions you know better than your opponent. No bus rides, obviously, is an advantage. It’s one we welcome. It’s huge. It can’t be overstated, that’s for sure.”
Freeburg could be dangerous considering it has played its best soccer in recent weeks. The Midgets were 2-8-1 after a 4-2 loss at Columbia on April 11.
Senior Emilie Blomenkamp has 15 goals and 13 assists to lead Freeburg. Junior Morgan Jetton has eight goals and 10 assists and freshman Kaylee Poston has seven goals and five assists.
Breese rivals Central and Mater Dei are on a collision course and could meet in the championship game of the Class 1A Central Regional at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Mater Dei defeated Central 1-0 on April 18. In the rematch, the teams tied 1-1 on April 30.
Mater Dei (9-9-2), seeded second in the regional, will play seventh-seeded Olney in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. In the other semifinal, third-seeded Central (8-6-3) will face sixth-seeded Salem at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The regional winner will face the champion of the Columbia Regional in the semifinals of the Althoff Sectional at 4:30 p.m. on May 17.
Central is led by senior Jessica Albers’ 18 goals. Freshman Allyson Fehrmann has eight goals. Mater Dei’s leading goal-scorers are seniors Macey Endres and Heather Schulte with seven apiece.
The Class 1A Marquette Regional opened Saturday with Metro-East Lutheran defeating Wood River 3-0.
Metro-East Lutheran (2-12), seeded ninth, will play top-seeded Marquette (9-9-3) at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the semifinals at Gordon Moore Park. In the second semifinal, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, fourth-seeded Roxana will play fifth-seeded Father McGivney.
The title game is at 4:30 p.m. Friday, also at Gordon Moore Park.