ALTON — In each of the last three years, the Roxana Shells were eliminated by the Civic Memorial Eagles in the Class 1A regional semifinals.
“I cried every one of those three years because I know we have worked so hard,” Roxana senior midfielder Alyssa Copeland said.
On Tuesday, Copeland was all smiles after the Shells cruised to a 7-0 win over the Father McGivney Griffins in a Class 1A Marquette Regional semifinal match at Gordon Moore Park. Roxana advanced to play the Marquette Explorers in the championship match at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“I’m in a loss for words,” Copeland said. “It makes me so happy because this team has always worked so hard to get to where we are right now. With the good season we had and coming out with a win in this first game for regionals, that means so much to me as a senior because that means all of my hard work has finally paid off.”
Roxana improved to 11-5-2. The Shells are a victory away from matching last year’s win total.
“The season has been great,” Roxana coach Lori Yates said. “I really thought that it was going to be a rebuilding season and we were going to have some struggles, but these girls are very resilient. They don’t give up. Even if we get behind in games, they don’t give up. They can play a solid 80 minutes and not get their heads down, so I’m very proud of them.”
The Shells will play Marquette for the second time on Friday. Roxana lost to the Explorers 3-0 in the last meeting on April 7 at Gordon Moore Park.
Marquette (10-9-3) advanced to the regional championship match by beating Metro-East Lutheran 9-0 in the other regional semifinal on Tuesday. The Explorers are looking to win their eighth straight regional title.
“That will be a different game,” Yates said. “We’re going to have to come in very defensively. We have to mark the people up top and not give them any room and try to shut them down as much as we can.”
Father McGivney wrapped up its first varsity season with a 4-13 record. Seniors Nina Rodriguez, Danielle Villhard, Maddelyn Thiel and Alana Giacoletto played their last high school soccer game on Tuesday.
“I think it’s an interesting year being a varsity team,” said Rodriguez, who is the Griffins’ goalkeeper. “I think we gave it our best effort. We kept pushing, no matter what happened. It’s all we can really do this year and I think next year, the girls are going to know what they’re capable of. I feel like they’ll be able to bring that much more in practices next year.”
The Shells won their first postseason match in five years on Tuesday. Roxana has a total of just four postseason wins in the last 15 years.
Copeland and senior teammates Katie Herndon, Kara Meyer and Hannah Mormino celebrated their first postseason win in their high school soccer careers on Tuesday.
“That’s so impressive,” Copeland said. “With losing some of the seniors from last year and coming into this game, it was hard to figure out how we were going to get back together. But we pulled it through and I’m so proud. I’m so excited for the next game.”
Last year, the Shells lost to Civic Memorial 5-0 in the regional semifinals. Roxana lost 5-0 to the Eagles in 2014 and 3-0 in 2013.
Copeland said she’s happy her team finally cleared the regional semifinal hurdle.
“To get it this year almost brings me to tears again, but they’re happy tears this time,” the Roxana senior said.
A month ago, Roxana beat Father McGivney 3-0 in the last meeting at Wood River Soccer Park. On Tuesday, Roxana led 3-0 at halftime and never looked back.
“I’m so excited because we played really well today,” Copeland said. “We were a little jittery in the first half. In the second half, we definitely brought it together and came out with the win, so I’m really proud of my team.”
The seven goals marked a season high for the Shells. Sophomore Emma Lucas scored two goals, giving her a total of 21 for the season. Herndon, sophomores Mykayla Rosales, Brynn Huddleston, Brookelyn Trask and freshman Abby Kurth also scored goals.
Roxana also picked up its sixth shutout of the season. Copeland said she’s pleased with the way her team played defensively.
“They’ve really helped us,” she said. “They sit back there and they talk to us and nothing really gets past them. They worked very hard and I’m very proud of them because they saved our butts a lot these past few games.”
The Griffins were shut out for the 12th time this season. With 30 minutes left in the second half, junior Rachel Kassing had a chance to give Father McGivney its first goal of the game, but her kick bounced off the top of the crossbar.
Yates applauded the Griffins’ effort.
“I have to give them all kinds of accolades,” Yates said. “They played hard the entire game and did not give up. They were aggressive.”