SAUGET — The Granite City Warriors are glad to have Lexi Grote and Grace Neidhardt back for another season.
“They take on a big role,” Granite City coach Kenny Prazma said.
On Wednesday, Grote and Neidhardt helped the Warriors pull off a 2-2 tie against the Triad Knights at GCS Ballpark by scoring their first goals of the season. Both of their goals came in the second half.
Granite City is now 0-1-1. The Warriors started their season on Saturday with a 5-1 loss to Naperville Central at Belleville West.
“I think we definitely improved from our first game a lot,” Granite City senior captain Emily Smith said.
After freshman Megan Jones scored a goal as time expired in the second overtime period, Granite City thought it celebrated an overtime victory over Triad at GCS Ballpark for the second straight year.
But the referees ruled that Jones scored her goal after time ran out and the goal was waved off.
“With everybody kind of watching the ball, it’s kind of hard to see whether or not time ran out,” Prazma said. “The head referee looked at his watch after the ball had gone in. It takes at least a second for him to watch that ball go in and then go look at his watch to see how much time there is. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have a horn for time, but stuff happens.”
Still, Prazma said he was pleased that his team finished in a tie with Triad, which is now 3-1-1 after getting wins over Edwardsville, Marquette Catholic and Highland. The Warriors and the Knights played two 40-minute halves and two five-minute overtime periods.
“It’s a great match of two great teams playing each other in a hard fought game,” Prazma said.
The Warriors and Knights played at the Gateway Grizzles' baseball stadium for the second straight year. Last year, Granite City knocked off Triad 2-1 in overtime.
“I like it here, but the field was kind of small and it was different for us,” Granite City senior Shelby Winn said. “But it was definitely an experience and I kind of like it here.”
Prazma, who is in his fifth season as Granite City coach, said Triad coach Matt Bettlach came up with the idea of having a soccer match at GCS Ballpark last year.
“I know they had some boys' games out here,” Prazma said. “He called last year and asked about playing out here. So we decided, ‘Why not?’”
Junior Sam Bassler gave Triad a 1-0 lead with a goal with 27 minutes left in the first half. Neidhardt tied it at 1-1 with her goal with 32 minutes remaining in the second half.
After Meghan Smith gave the Knights a 2-1 lead with a goal with 20 minutes left, Grote tied the game by scoring a goal with 11:40 remaining.
Grote and Neidhardt are two of the Warriors’ top players from last year’s team that finished 11-9-2 and won its first regional championship team in four years. The two combined to score 16 goals and earned spots on the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association all-sectional team in the 2015 season.
The Warriors have six seniors, six juniors, two sophomores and seven freshmen on their varsity roster.
“The freshmen are talented and bring some excitement to the game,” Prazma said. “It’s a good mix. We’re looking forward to not only this year, but some years to come with them.”
The Warriors will be back in action on April 1, when they play Springfield (Mo.) Kickapoo in the Parkway College Showcase. Granite City plays Lindbergh the next day.