GRANITE CITY — The Granite City Warriors are determined not to finish with another winless Southwestern Conference season this fall.
"We're going to be in every game," Granite City coach Kenny Jackson said. "We're going to fight. As long as we fight to put ourselves in a situation (to win), I don't see why we can't start rattling off some wins in conference."
The Warriors are still seeking their first SWC win. Granite City came from behind to tie the Alton Redbirds 2-2 in a conference match on Tuesday at Gene Baker Field. The two teams played two 10-minute overtime periods after 80 minutes of regulation.
The Warriors rallied with two goals in the second half after trailing 2-0 at halftime.
Granite City is 0-2-2 overall and 0-1-1 in conference play and will play another home match on Thursday against Triad.
"It's a rough season to start off with, so this tie coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the first half is pretty big for us," Granite City senior defender Zach Druhe said. "It's a pretty big confidence booster for us to go ahead and hopefully get a win over Triad on Thursday."
Alton began its conference season on Tuesday. With the tie, the Redbirds are 2-1-2 overall and 0-0-1 in league play. Their next match will be Saturday at Quincy. The Birds played host to the Alton Invitational on Friday and Saturday to kick off their season, going 1-1-1 and taking third in the tournament.
"I think we had our spots that we played pretty well," Alton coach Jay Robertson said. "We have some things to correct, but we have a lot of new faces from last year's team, so some things are getting put in place and we're figuring out some things as we're going forward, so I think they're playing pretty well so far."
Last year, the Warriors finished seventh in the conference standings with a 0-3-3 mark. Granite City lost matches to Alton, Edwardsville and Collinsville and tied Belleville East, Belleville West and O'Fallon. Last week, the Warriors started their league season with a 2-1 loss to Edwardsville after leading 1-0 at halftime.
Jackson, who is in his second season as Granite City coach, said playing a Southwestern Conference soccer match is not easy.
"Everyone's tough," Jackson said. "Everyone's got athletes. Everyone's determined to win."
"Anytime you play anywhere in this conference, it's a tough game," said Robertson, whose team finished 2-4 in conference play last year. "Everybody playing in the Southwestern Conference is a good opponent, so anytime you can get a win, you're in a good spot."
Alton took a 1-0 lead on a goal by junior C.J. Nasello with 29 minutes left in the first half. Six minutes later, the Redbirds boosted their lead to 2-0 on a goal by senior Eric Ferenbach, who earned all-league honors last year.
"Goals are at a premium and you can't spot the other team 2-0 and honestly expect to continue to come back every game," Jackson said. "The same thing happened against Rochester on Saturday. We spotted them three soft goals because we didn't play with the determination to defend. We had plenty of opportunities to score, but you're not guaranteed to score. The only way you're guaranteed to keep yourself in the game and get yourself an honest chance to win is to defend. You can't start giving up cheap goals."
Granite City junior Nathan Tanthavong scored his second goal of the season with 25:30 left in the second half to cut the Redbirds' lead to 2-1. He scored a goal against Edwardsville last week.
Junior Sam Ortiz scored the game-tying goal with 5 minutes, 40 seconds left in the second half. It was his first goal of the season.
"He's going to get opportunities all season long," Jackson said. "We just need him to continue to work and find those opportunities to score. But tonight we couldn't ask for anything more. That was a huge goal for us."