ALTON – For the first time in eight days, the Marquette Catholic Explorers were back on the soccer pitch on Thursday, when they played the Belleville East Lancers at Gordon Moore Park.
The Explorers didn’t show any signs of rustiness as they beat the Lancers 4-0 to improve to 5-1. Marquette scored all four goals in the second half.
“We found a way to put the ball into the net and we did that tonight,” Marquette senior Zach Weinman said.
After a day off on Friday, Marquette will be back in action on Saturday, when it plays at Belleville West. Last year, the Explorers lost 8-1 to the Maroons.
“If we play like we played in the second half, it will be a good game,” Weinman said. “They’re a good team and they got us last year, but we have to come out hard and see what we can do.”
Marquette dropped to 3-4-3 after the loss to Belleville West in the 2015 season. Then, the Explorers got hot, winning 11 of their next 14 matches, including a 1-0 win over Glenwood in the Class 2A regional championship match at Jacksonville. Their season ended in the sectional finals.
“It gave us a taste of what we can do, so we’re hoping we can go farther than that this year,” Marquette senior Brendan Nickloy said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys on this team and we want to win.”
The Explorers have six seniors on their team. Besides Weinman and Nickloy, Jon Stewart, Ryan Ely, Patrick Keenan and Brayden Kallmbah are the other seniors.
“We need great leadership from the seniors so we can pass it down to the young starters,” said Weinman, who is a second-year team captain. “We want to do the best we can in each game and have a good season like last year.”
On Thursday, the Explorers bounced back from a 3-1 loss to Gibault on the road on Aug. 31, which was the last game they played. Marquette won its first four matches, including three in the St. Anthony’s Tournament in late August.
Last year, Weinman was the Explorers’ top scorer with 23 goals. This year, he has five, including a hat trick against Belleville East on Thursday.
“He did have a great game tonight and he got some goals,” said Marquette assistant coach Joe Burchett, who was filling in for head coach Jeremy Sanfilippo on Thursday. “I think he can get more. The good news is he’s got a surrounding cast that’s also getting goals.”
Weinman gave the Explorers a 1-0 lead by scoring a goal with just three minutes into the second half. He scored his second goal with 28:44 left. Weinman scored his third goal as time expired in the match.
Aaron Boulch, one of four freshmen on the Marquette squad, scored his third goal of the season with 34:17 left in the second half to give his team a 2-0 lead. He assisted on Weinman’s second goal.
“Aaron is a young guy,” Nickloy said. “He’s fast and he plays with the big ones. He plays with a lot of heart. He’s got a good shot and he finds a way to put it in the net off of passes from our forwards and our mids.”
Sophomore Nick Hemann recorded the shutout in goal. He finished with four saves.
The Explorers picked up their fourth shutout victory. They’re also 2-0 against Southwestern Conference teams this season.
“It was a strong defensive performance from our backs and everybody was working back and working hard the whole game,” Nickloy said. “Everyone was marking up and staying tight.”
Belleville East dropped to 0-7. They lost to Alton just two days before.
“They’ve got a good coach (in James Chambers),” Burchett said. “They’ll get better and better things will come for East.”