GRANITE CITY – The Edwardsville Tigers are inching closer to another regional championship.
The Tigers advanced to the Class 3A Granite City Regional championship match against the Collinsville Kahoks at 5 p.m. Friday after cruising to a 5-0 win over the host Warriors in a regional semifinal match on Tuesday at Gene Baker Field. It's the fifth time in 10 years Edwardsville eliminated Granite City from regional play.
“Our job was to make sure that we kept focused and kept playing the game,” Edwardsville coach Mark Heiderscheid said.
Now, the Tigers are a win away from their fifth straight regional championship, which will tie a school record. Edwardsville won five regional crowns from 2006-2010 and has captured 10 regional titles in Heiderscheid's 17-year career as head coach.
“It will be a cool experience,” Edwardsville senior defender Blake Conway said. “We have keep practicing and keep doing what we're doing and I think we'll have a good chance at it.”
Collinsville defeated Alton 4-1 in the other regional semifinal on Tuesday to advance to the championship match against the Tigers. The Kahoks lost to Edwardsville 4-0 in the last meeting on Sept. 13.
Collinsville, which won the Southwestern Conference championship this year, is looking to win its first regional title since 2008.
The Tigers improved to 14-1-5. CBC handed Edwardsville its only loss on Oct. 5.
Defense has been one of the big keys in the Tigers' successful season. After blanking Granite City on Tuesday, Edwardsville picked up its 12th shutout. The Tigers have given up only nine goals this season.
“They’re a good team,” Granite City coach Kenny Jackson said. “Mark’s got a good program and he’s a good coach and they have good players.”
The Warriors finished their season at 5-10-6. Granite City was handed its first loss on its home field this season.
“As a whole, there were ups and downs,” Jackson said. “It was a rollercoaster and I think the kids certainly feel they were games out there that maybe the result should have gone our way had we put the ball in the net and we didn’t. That’s why the record is what it is. At the same time, the kids played very well in front of their home fans.”
Granite City finished 4-1-4 at Gene Baker Field. The Warriors began their home season on Aug. 25 with a 1-1 tie with Edwardsville.
On Tuesday, the Tigers cruised to a 3-0 lead at halftime.
“We didn’t give enough effort or defend well enough and that starts with me getting these guys prepared yesterday in leading up to this game to make sure that they had a good showing and we didn’t,” Jackson said. “It’s unfortunate that the seniors had to go out with the 5-0 loss in front of their home fans, but at the same time they can say that they went 4-1-4 at home including playoffs.”
The Warriors earned a trip to the semifinal round against Edwardsville by beating Pekin 4-0 on Saturday in a first-round match, making it the first time in eight years Granite City won a regional game.
With Tuesday’s loss, Edwardsville also ended the high school soccer careers of 12 Granite City seniors.
“It’s a little tough,” Granite City senior Alex Moore said. “Four years at the high school and now it’s over just like that in a blink of an eye. One game and it was over with. It’s a tough one to swallow.”
Alec Mills gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead after scoring on a penalty kick with 29 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first half. It was his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
“When we got the first one, the pressure dropped off,” Conway said. “We had to keep going and keep battling. The more we get, the better it was going to be. That was our mindset and it worked out for us.”
Mohammad Hamad scored his fifth goal of the season with 21:40 remaining in the half to extend Edwardsville's lead to 2-0.
The Tigers took a 3-0 lead after senior John Wasmuth scored his first goal of the year with 8:19 left in the first half.
Edwardsville got goals from Josh Reed and Michael Picchiotti in the second half. Reed scored his first goal of the season and Picchiotti recorded his sixth goal.
Dan Picchiotti and Michael Holting picked up the shutout in goal for the Tigers.
“They came out and got the early PK and took advantage from the start,” Moore said. “During the first 10 minutes, they set the pace of the game and we really couldn’t match it. They controlled pretty much all of the game.”
The Warriors were shut out for the sixth time this season. Granite City's best scoring chance came with eight minutes into the match, when junior Zack Medlin attempted to score his second goal of the season from inside the scorer's box. But his shot by saved by Picchiotti.
“It was a real game changer for us because if they had scored, it would have been a different game,” Conway said.