COLUMBIA — Sports aren't won on paper.
The Marquette Catholic boys' soccer team proved that Tuesday, shocking the Columbia Eagles on their home field in the Class 2A Columbia Sectional semifinals.
The efficient Explorers scored two goals on two shots to take down the Eagles in a magical 2-1 win. They earned a date with Waterloo in the sectional finals at 6 p.m. Friday at Columbia. The Bulldogs bested Quincy Notre Dame 3-2 in the early game Tuesday.
Second-half goals by Adam Hammond and Collin Dunn sealed the deal for the Explorers on Tuesday. Dunn earned the game winner in the 52nd minute.
With the win Marquette improved to 14-6-3 on the season. The Eagles close their impressive campaign at 22-2-1.
Columbia was the No. 1 seed in the sub-sectional, the defending Class 1A state champions and had defeated the Explorers 6-1 on Oct. 15 in Alton.
Marquette, the No. 6 seed, has been the underdog throughout, upsetting Jacksonville 1-0 and Chatham Glenwood 1-0 in the Jacksonville Regional to reach Columbia.
“You've just got to play the game,” Marquette head coach Jeremy Sanfilippo said. “Everybody wrote me off against Chatham and I'm sure everybody wrote me off after a loss to (Columbia) at home. I told the boys before we got off the bus, 'Anna Jonesboro came from a 6-1 loss to Gibault and then came back in the playoffs and beat them, why can't Alton Marquette come back and do the same thing?'”
Columbia head coach Jason Methenia was in shock following the loss. He gave credit to the Explorers for a good plan, but couldn't believe the season was over for the Eagles.
“We definitely had the player personnel to (get to state) and unfortunately to these seniors and this group this is going to sting for awhile,” Mathenia said. “I'm not going to downplay Alton Marquette, they had a game plan, but anybody watching this game saw who the better team was and sometimes the better team just doesn't win and that's just the way it is.”
A steady light rain throughout the game effected the play. On the turf field the ball moved quicker and was slick for the goalkeepers.
As Marquette spread out wide, went long and tried to keep the ball away from the Eagles, it staved off four shots and a corner in the opening half to enter the break in a scoreless stalemate. For the game the Explorers were outshot 7-2.
In the 22nd minute Columbia earned a free kick off a foul by the Explorers right outside of the box, but goalie Brandon Sanfilippo made a slick diving stop to deflect the shot.
Ryan Gudeman of the Eagles looked to score in the 30th minute on a nifty shot from the side of the goal, but was whistled offsides, negating it and keeping it scoreless.
Finally in the 48th minute Marquette struck gold. Hammond got behind Columbia goalie Jon Kuebler and buried a shot in the open net. Hammond followed the shot of Chris Hartrich, who was credited with the assist, and hammered home the loose ball.
“It was amazing,” Jeremy Sanfilippo said. “We saw Chris Hartrich, who is a freshman, break in and was able to get a shot off and then Hammond followed the shot and finished it. It was a great play going to the goal.”
But Columbia answered just 1 minute, 44 seconds later when Cameron Roth drilled a shot into the back of the net to knot it at 1-1.
Dunn halted the stalemate in the 52nd minute though. The senior defenseman for the Explorers took a free kick at midfield and launched it as far as he could. Kuebler snuck out to get the ball, but it bounced over his head and skipped off the wet turf into the goal for the game winner.
The play took everyone at the field by surprise. Dunn said he just let it fly.
“It was a free kick at midfield and I just kicked it as far as I could,” Dunn said. “It just bounced over the goalie.
“We just played really well. We knew what they were doing the whole time, marked off good and got the win.”
From there the Explorers just buckled down on defense and tried to stop the potent Eagles' attack. Maybe the biggest play for Marquette was by senior defenseman Adam Johnes, sprawling in front of an empty net to deny a Columbia shot in the 68th minute. He slid and kicked away what looked to by a tying goal.
Fighting off the strong flip throw-ins of Sean Rickey of the Eagles was key, too. Twice Rickey flipped and threw the ball into the net from the sidelines, but if the throw-in isn't touched before tickling the twine, it is disallowed.
“A couple weeks ago we noticed (Sanfilippo's) demeanor in Alton on the throw-ins, he just stepped out of the way,” Methenia said. “We talked about it the other day, 'If he's got the opportunity to get out of the way and let it go in, he's going to.' We talked about it, but we just didn't execute it during the game.”
Jeremy Sanfilippo said being aware of Rickey's powerful throw-ins made a difference. In the regular season match, the Explorers weren't prepared for him.
“On our field I didn't know as much about (Rickey) and I gave him his respect tonight and it showed,” he said. “I don't know if we took him out of it, but we definitely limited him.”
Now it's on to Waterloo. It will be the first time Marquette has seen the 21-3-1 Bulldogs, but Sanfilippo knows his team will be ready for the challenge.
“We saw when we got here, they have a big team, they're fast and another team that's had a great season,” he said. “It doesn't get easier. I've had Chatham, who is a defending state champion, Columbia won state last year and Waterloo just knocked off Quincy Notre Dame, who had a good shot at winning state this year. I'm just going to keep telling the boys to do the best we can do as a team and as long as we go out and work hard, we can show that we can hang with these teams.”