High School Sports

O’Leary’s late goal lifts Collinsville past Granite City

One of Collinsville coach Clay Smith’s favorite postseason sayings rang loud and clear on Tuesday at O’Fallon High School.

Thanks to a goal by junior midfielder Alynnah O’Leary with just over five minutes remaining in regulation, the Kahoks “will live to fight another day.”

Taking a pass from a teammate, O’Leary beat Granite City goalie Neely Wiehardt with a shot from 25 yards at the 74:17 mark for the only goal of the game as the Kahoks defeated the Warriors 1-0 in a semifinal round game of the Class 3A Normal Girls Soccer Sectional.

Frustrated after missing countless scoring opportunities, the Kahoks (19-1-2) appeared headed for overtime against their Southwestern Conference rivals, until O’Leary took a pass just past midfield and moved up the left side of the field. Taking aim on the upper right-hand corner of the net, O’Leary hit her mark as she hit a shot that barely got over the outstretched arms of Wiehardt.

“The sides were open all night long. We had a lot of good scoring chances in the first half, and while it was a little frustrating, we just had to relax a little bit at halftime and keep pressing forward in the second half,’’ O’Leary said. “My teammate made a nice pass and I was able to get off a good shot.

“Like I said, the outsides were open all night. We just had to keep attacking.’’

The win moves Collinsville into the sectional final at 5 p.m. Friday in Normal, where it will take on Normal Community, which defeated Minooka 4-2 in penalty kicks Tuesday.

The last thing Smith wanted to see was his team go into overtime with the stubborn Warriors. Granite City (10-7-4) won a regional title last week with overtime wins over both higher-seeded Belleville West and Edwardsville.

“That’s a very good team over there,’’ Smith said of the Warriors. “I thought they had the better of the play for at least the first 15 to maybe 20-25 minutes of the game. When we had possession, we really didn’t do much with the ball.

“But we had some good opportunities that we couldn’t cash in on. We had a nice talk at halftime and I thought we came out and played better in the second half. ‘’

Collinsville’s missed opportunities

Forward Taylor Devine along with Emily Holten and Andrea Frerker all had good chances in the first half for Collinsville.

Devine had a shot just go over the cross bar in the opening 10 minutes and Holten’s shot hit the goal post late in the first half. Granite City’s only good scoring chance in the opening 40 minutes of play came when Grace Niedhardt hit a shot from 35 yards that bounced hard on the field turf and appeared to take a crazy hop

But Collinsville goalie Julie Scheiter blocked the shot.

The Warriors would have other chances in the second half as Lexi Grote and Shelby Winn used good speed to get separation, but either had shots blocked by the Kahoks’ defense or Scheiter in goal.

“We crated some scoring chances. We just didn’t finish on them,’’ Warriors coach Kenny Prazma said. “It’s tough to lose because I thought we played well and the girls gave a great effort as they have all year. I’m proud of this soccer team.’’

Patience pays off

O’Leary hit the post midway in the second half and Frerker nearly scored after a corner kick with just over 12 minutes left.

But thankfully for Smith and the Kahoks, persistence and patience finally paid off.

“Sometimes as a coach and a player, you just have to be patient. That’s hard to do sometimes. But we just had to keep attacking from the outside,’’ Smith said. “We had to get one sooner or later.’’

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean