Faced with an open shot from close range early in the first half in the championship game of the Class 1A Central Soccer Regional on Friday, Mater Dei Knights senior Melanie Mensing gave herself a quick pep talk. It worked.
Mensing beat Central goalie Breanna Beckmann with a shot into the bottom left hand corner of the net with still over 30 minutes left in the first half and the Knights defense made it hold up for a 2-1 win.
“The goal? It was wide open. I just had to make sure I hit a good shot into the corner,” Mensing said. “You only get so many chances and fortunately I was able to score.”
Senior Amy Krebs also scored for Mater Dei (11-9-2) which defeated its city rival for the second time in three meetings this year as it moves into the Althoff Sectional on Tuesday at McKendree University. There the Knights will take on the Columbia Eagles, who defeated Freeburg 4-1 in the title game of the Columbia Regional.
All three goals, which matched the combined output of both teams in the two regular season matchups, were scored in the opening 9 minutes, 24 seconds of the game.
But after Mensing’s goal, the defenses dominated. Central (9-7-3) managed just two more good shots on goal, while Mater Dei had to deal with the brilliance of Cougars goalie Breanna Beckmann.
Using her size and agility, Beckmann made at least four diving saves — including on a pair of near breakaways by Mensing and Macey Endres.
But in the end, it was the Knights’ defense which was the difference.
“I thought we did a great job on the defensive end,” Mater Dei coach Jesse Essenpries said. “The first two goals of the night, the wind might have played a factor in. But our second goal was very good execution. Honestly I didn’t think two goals would win tonight. We had a chance for a couple more in the first half and and at halftime, I told the girls I thought we would need at least one more because they (Central) had the wind in the second half.”
Cougars break out on top
Held to just one goal in two previous games, the Cougars struck first on Friday when Jessica Albers scored to give her team an early 1-0 lead.
It didn’t last long as less then a minute later off a corner kick from Endres, Krebs scored to even the game at 1.
“We usually get three or four good scoring chances a game. I’m not sure we had that many today,” Cougars coach Keith Patterson said. “It was a very good soccer game between two good teams from Breese tonight. And now we’ve got one representative from Breese moving on. I thought the last 10 minutes of the game was pretty high level soccer from both teams. Wasn’t it?”
And playing at the highest level for Central was Beckmann.
“She’s really only been playing a year,” Patterson said of Beckmann. “Breanna was great tonight.”
The tradition continues
The Knights win over Central is the third regional title in as many years for Essenpries and fifth in all for the Mater Dei program. It’s also the third for Mensing who has been a key player for the Knights in the last three years.
“We’ve worked hard the last three years and each year we’ve been rewarded with a regional title,’’ Mensing said. “Being a senior, it means a lot to me and alot to all the seniors. We’ve been together for three years.”