Granite City has slayed one giant. Can it conquer another?
The Warriors (10-6-4) will play co-Southwestern Conference champion Collinsville (18-1-2) in the semifinals of the Class 3A Normal Sectional at 7 p.m. Tuesday at O’Fallon High.
The visiting Kahoks defeated Granite City 2-1 in overtime on April 21.
“I think they know they can play soccer with anybody,” Warriors coach Kenny Prazma said of his players, who earned a 2-1 victory over Edwardsville, which shared the league title with Collinsville, on Friday by outscoring the Tigers 3-1 in penalty kicks in the championship game of the Granite City Regional.
The Granite City-Collinsville winner will advance to the sectional final at 5 p.m. Friday in Normal against the winner of the other semifinal between Normal and Minooka.
Collinsville defeated Alton 5-0 on Saturday in the championship game of the Collinsville Regional. The Kahoks placed fourth in the state tournament last year.
Prazma knows his team’s challenge is significant.
“They did put a lot of heat on us, especially toward the end of the second half and in overtime,” Prazma said of the previous meeting against Collinsville. “They came at us pretty hard and kind of overwhelmed the girls a little bit more.”
The Kahoks, indeed, are lethal on offense. Juniors Emily Holten (19 goals, 14 assists), Tayler Devine (14 goals, five assists), Alyannah O’Leary (11 goals, five assists) and Andrea Frerker (seven goals, nine assists), and sophomore Jalyn Richardson (seven goals) are capable scorers. Senior defender Chayse Richardson’s flip throws are deadly and have led to 10 assists.
It’s their overall balance. Clay (Smith) does a great job getting them all together and playing on the same page. The way they play is about as dangerous as it comes. They’re pretty much, ‘Let’s go forward and get everybody involved in it.’ And they’re not greedy.
Granite City girls soccer coach Kenny Prazma on the challenge of facing Collinsville
Defensively, Collinsville has surrendered just 18 goals.
“Hopefully, we can keep that going,” Collinsville coach Clay Smith said of spreading the offensive wealth. “We had trouble scoring at their place. We had a lot of opportunities, but we made a lot of mistakes. For us, being patient and keeping the ball, trying to work it and find some open gaps (will be key). They don’t make many mistakes in the back.”
Prazma said it’s the Kahoks’ team approach that causes the most concern.
“It’s their overall balance,” Prazma said. “Clay does a great job getting them all together and playing on the same page. The way they play is about as dangerous as it comes. They’re pretty much, ‘Let’s go forward and get everybody involved in it.’ And they’re not greedy. They don’t mind sharing, knocking balls into the middle when a person is making a run.”
Granite City has outstanding speed on top with juniors Grace Niedhardt (12 goals, six assists) and Lexi Grote (10 goals, 11 assists). Grote scored against Collinsville in the April 21 game.
“We have to get it to their feet so they can use their skills and use their speed,” Prazma said. “Grace has a great shot. Lexi just kind of overwhelms people with her speed. It makes both of them extremely dangerous. We hope to get everybody involved.”
Defensively, juniors Hannah Miller and Kendyl Pritchett are the Warriors’ leaders. Junior goalkeeper Neeley Wiedhardt stopped three Edwardsville penalty kicks Friday.
“They’re so well-coached and they play so organized,” Smith said. “They’re riding a really good, high roller-coaster right now. It was a huge win against (Edwardsville) to really boost their confidence. At the same time, they have to turn around and they have to play us. That’s two tough games in a row.
“But I have nothing but great respect for that team and that program. They’re so strong defensively and they keep their shape so well. They can counterattack so fast with Lexi and Grace. They’re just a dangerous team. Their confidence is through the roof right now.”
Class 2A Triad Sectional
Difficult assignments await Triad and Waterloo, co-champions of the Mississippi Valley Conference, in the semifinals of the Class 2A Triad Sectional on Tuesday.
The host Knights (15-4-3) will face the Springfield Senators (14-6-1) at 5 p.m. Triad advanced to the sectional by blanking Carbondale 3-0 on Friday in the title game of the Triad Regional.
Waterloo (17-3-3), which earned the championship of the Marion Regional by blitzing the host Wildcats 6-0 on Friday, will face the Rochester Rockets (20-2-1), a legitimate state-championship contender, in the second semifinal at 7. Rochester won the Class 1A state championship last season and was runner-up in Class 1A in 2014.
The semifinal winners will meet in the title game at 6 p.m. Friday.
By all accounts, they’re a very good team. They’re going to present problems for us when it comes to speed and physicality. They’re pretty strong in the back, from what I hear. They play more of a direct style and try to pressure you into making mistakes, then capitalize off that.
Triad girls soccer coach Matt Bettlach on playing the Springfield Senators
Triad has not faced Springfield this season. Both Triad and Waterloo, however, played Rochester in the Metro Cup Tournament in March. Triad fell to the Rockets 1-0, while Waterloo absorbed a 4-0 defeat.
Knights coach Matt Bettlach isn’t yet worried about Rochester. Bettlach said Triad first will have its hands full against Springfield. The Senators downed Jacksonville 2-0 on Friday in the championship game of the Springfield Regional.
“By all accounts, they’re a very good team. They’re going to present problems for us when it comes to speed and physicality,” Bettlach said. “They’re pretty strong in the back, from what I hear. They play more of a direct style and try to pressure you into making mistakes, then capitalize off that.”
Bettlach said the Knights, who prefer to possess the ball and look for openings, will have to make quick decisions on offense to negate the Senators’ defense.
“We’re going to have to change our thought process,” Bettlach said. “If we can keep them chasing us and wear them down a little bit, that will help. (But) we’re going to have to be on our toes for 80 minutes.”
Sarah Cross and McKenna Mathiot scored Springfield’s goals against Jacksonsville, while Mathiot also had an assist. Kalynn Clearwater is the Senators’ goalie.
Triad’s offense revolves around junior Meaghan Smith (17 goals, 10 assists), freshman Katie Rogers (18 goals, three assists), sophomore Jody Ellis (nine goals, five assists) and junior Sam Bassler (eight goals, five assists). Senior Skye Clark is solid in goal.
“Our midfielders and forwards are capable of creating opportunities. We’ll just have to capitalize on them,” Bettlach said.
When you get to this stage of the playoffs, every team you see is going to be good. We saw them once already. I told the girls there’s no pressure really on us. We have a young team and they’ve all been playing well. We’ll see what happens.
Waterloo girls soccer coach Chad Holden on facing defending Class 1A state champion Rochester
Waterloo coach Chad Holden is looking forward to the rematch against Rochester.
“When you get to this stage of the playoffs, every team you see is going to be good,” Holden said. “We saw them once already. I told the girls there’s no pressure really on us. We have a young team and they’ve all been playing well. We’ll see what happens.”
Waterloo sophomore Sydney Luedeman has scored 12 goals in her last five games, swelling her total for the season to 28. Luedeman also has 11 assists.
Senior Erika Lloyd (16 goals, 13 assists) and junior Mollie Zeisset (nine goals, 11 assists) also are scoring threats for the Bulldogs.
Rochester’s top weapons are seniors Becca Jostes, Amanda Williams and Baylee Smith. Jostes, a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville recruit, had a hat trick in Rochester’s 5-0 win over Chatham Glenwood on Friday in the championship game of the Chatham Glenwood Regional. Williams scored two goals in the previous game against Triad.
“(Jostes) is the main one,” Holden said. “She’s been an all-state player the last two years. She’s going to be a handful. But we know about her and we’ll see what happens.”
Holden said the Bulldogs’ defensive has made dramatic improvment since the previous game against Rochester. Waterloo surrendered seven goals in the Metro Cup Tournament, but has yielded just five since then as sophomores Sierra Berg and Sydney Bockhorn have stepped in front of sophomore goalie Bailey Bosler.
“We’ve changed our defense around,” Holden said. “A lot of the goals scored against us were when we didn’t even have our (regular) back four even in there.”