COLLINSVILLE — An explosive second half pushed the Collinsville Kahoks past the Alton Redbirds in Thursday night’s Southwestern Conference contest.
The Kahoks scored all of their goals in the second half in the 4-0 win. Collinsville improved to 9-7-2 overall and 5-1 in the SWC. The win secured the SWC title for the Kahoks, their second in two years.
Alton coach Nick Funk didn't think the Redbirds played with enough intensity and that was a big part of their problem in the loss.
“We played flat the whole game,” Funk said. “They’re going to get goals like that when you don’t give it everything you have the whole game. You can argue that they’re not going in, a couple off the post and in, but the fact of the matter is that we just didn’t play hard.”
The Redbirds dropped to 14-5-2 overall and 3-2-1 in the league. Alton finished fourth in the SWC behind Collinsville, Edwardsville (4-0-2, SWC) and O’Fallon (4-2, SWC).
The Kahoks and the Redbirds square off again at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the semifinal round of the Class 3A Granite City Regional.
Thursday's contest was a defensive struggle in the beginning, as both teams struggled to put shots on goal in the first 15 minutes. However, a Collinsville surge started in the last 25 minutes of the first half.
Clay Hartman’s header with 18:17 left to play flew just feet to the west of the goal and Luke Liljegren’s shot from approximately 25-yards away with 13:02 left to play was batted away by Redbirds’ goalie Braden Flanigan.
The Kahoks’ offense continued to shoot away for the rest of the first half. Flanigan recorded four saves in the first 40 minutes and the score was tied at 0-0 at the end of the first half. But it didn’t take long for Collinsville to turn a shooting surge into a score in the second half.
Sabas Avalos’ goal at the 42:14 mark made the score 1-0 Collinsville. Avalos fired from approximately 12 yards out and the ball bounced off of Flanigan and into the goal.
Avalos said he felt “honored to get the first goal.”
Funk said early second-half woes have plagued the Birds a bunch this season.
“I think in three of our five losses we’ve given up a goal in the first minute and a half of the second half,” Funk said. “We were flat the whole game, but even more flat the first five minutes of that second half. They got that first goal and that deflated us, then they got the second one.”
Collinsville coach Clay Smith talked about the first goal as being a continuation of the first half momentum.
“We had a good first half,” Smith said. “It was just a matter of putting the ball in between the bar and not over the bar. We changed our formation and up top to keep the pressure on them. The boys were just resilient. A big part of that, I think, is that they were the first to every ball tonight. That’s a good soccer team over there and next Tuesday night isn’t going to be anything like tonight.”
The Kahoks continued to challenge the Redbirds in the next several minutes in working the ball deep into Alton territory and taking shots. Ryan Osterhout scored just feet from the goal with 23:40 left to play to give Collinsville a 2-0 advantage. Logan Whitehead and Zachary Stenger added goals in the latter part of the second half.
Alton had chances to end the shutout, but couldn’t convert. CJ Nasello’s free kick with 2:48 to play in the first half came up dry. Nasello took another shot with 15:55 left to play in the game, as he launched from approximately 25 yards out, but Kahoks’ goalkeeper Brett Niedzwiecki came up with the save.