Saturday was special for Blake Williams and the Belleville West boys soccer team.
Williams, a junior midfielder, banged in his first two goals of the season and the Maroons earned a 2-1 victory over Gibault, avenging a 3-2 loss to the Hawks in the fifth-place game of the Metro Cup Tournament the previous Saturday.
“They were both off good balls from my teammates,” said Williams, who scored each time into an empty net when Gibault senior goalie Luc Epplin came off his line to attempt a play on the ball. “It’s a great experience because they were my first two goals of the season. It was a good moment for me.”
The Maroons snapped a three-game losing skid and improved to 2-4. Gibault, whose only goal came on senior Dalton Scace’s second-half penalty kick, fell to 3-3-1.
We capitalized on some opportunities, which we struggled to do last time. It was great to see Blake (Williams) get a couple of goals. It’s always a good game against Gibault.
Belleville West soccer coach Rob Thornberry
“We capitalized on some opportunities, which we struggled to do last time,” Maroons coach Rob Thornberry said, also crediting the work of seniors Max Oplt and Ryan Herling. “It was great to see Blake get a couple of goals. It’s always a good game against Gibault.”
Williams’ second goal, scored at 77 minutes, 38 seconds, came after the Hawks had been pressuring the Maroons and senior keeper Erik Orchard.
Williams ran onto a bouncing ball served by junior Isaac Goodman and tapped it past Epplin, who was starting for senior Trevor Davis. Williams extended a fist into the air as the ball slowly rolled over the line and into the netting.
“I think it’s going to boost (our confidence),” Williams said.
West won despite missing two starters: senior defender Trevor Pentland, who received a red card against Waterloo, and junior defender Justin Araiza, who had to attend a wedding.
“The guys stepped it up, and that was great to see,” Thornberry said.
Change in goal
Gibault coach Matt Reeb started Epplin in goal for senior Trevor Davis, explaining that Epplin needed minutes. Epplin made several dazzling saves, particularly in the second half. But he appeared to be caught in-between on both of Williams’ goals.
“That comes with not getting all the reps,” Reeb said. “When you’re the backup, that’s what happens. He was a little unsure of himself: ‘Shall I go? Shall I stay?’ It happens. When you don’t get the in-game reps ... There’s a little bit of indecision for any keeper, and then when you add that on top of it, that’s what you have. Tough plays for him.
“He did fairly well the rest of the game. He came out on some flighted balls and cleared them off his line. He made a couple of saves. One was kind of a point-blank save. I was pleased.”
Scace strikes again
Williams made it 1-0 in the 12th minute, and the Maroons held the lead until the second half when Scace drilled the game-tying penalty kick.
Scace got behind the Maroons’ defense and was in a dangerous spot when officials called a handball in the box against West senior James Stammer.
Scace scored inside the right post in the 50th minute for his second penalty kick in three attempts against the Maroons. Scace, who has three goals, scored the game-winning PK against West in the teams’ first meeting. Earlier in the same game, Scace misfired on a PK.
“Scace really created that opportunity for the PK,” Thornberry said. “He turned on the jets and got behind our defense and they played a great ball in.”
Reeb thought the Hawks should have had more.
“It was a little disappointing because we created a lot of chances and didn’t put enough (of them) away,” he said. “We didn’t do enough when we got in those dangerous situations.
“But at the end of the day, it wasn’t a bad result because we were down our center back (junior Aaron Grohmann) in the second half. He got hurt in practice the other day. He tried to play the first half, but couldn’t go. That hurt us in the second half, but that’s the way the ball bounces.”