ALTON – Zac Ridenhour of the Jersey Panthers stopped the Marquette Catholic Explorers went it mattered the most in regional soccer Tuesday night.
“He’s our closer,” Jersey coach Scott Burney said of Ridenhour, a junior and the Panthers’ backup goalie.
Ridenhour closed out the Explorers in a semifinal game of the Class 2A Marquette Regional at Moore Park. He stopped three penalty kicks to help Jersey advance, 2-0, via the penalty-kick format. Jersey, now 14-5, moved on to the 4 p.m. Friday regional championship contest against Mississippi Valley Conference rival Triad. The 13-6-3 Knights beat Highland, 1-0 in the other semifinal.
“We played well, but we didn’t finish,” Explorers’ coach Jeremy Sanfilippo said. “You have to put the ball in the net to win the game.”
And Marquette didn’t do that for 100 minutes, plus four penalty kicks. Jersey goalie Drake Kanallakan thwarted the Explorers for 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime.
Then Burney made a change for the decisive penalty kicks. He switched goalies, inserting Ridenhour.
“He has done that before this season,” Burney said. “Zac was our keeper all of last year, but when we had some injuries this year, we had to move him to a forward. He has scored four goals for us.”
Yet it was defense the Panthers needed from Ridenhour this time and he obliged.
“I’ve been doing this other times this year, so I was pretty sure I was going to go in as goalie for the penalty kicks," he said. "I think doing that earlier in the season prepared me for it tonight."
James Holmes of Jersey made the first penalty kick before Ridenhour stopped a shot from Zach Weinman. Marquette keeper Brandon Sanfilippo, stifling Jersey for the first 100 minutes, then saved a shot by Micah Kimble.
Ridenhour blocked two more shots and Sanfilippo stopped one, keeping it at 1-0, with two penalty kicks remaining for each team. R.J. Strauss of the Panthers punched in a shot, but Jacob File of the Explorers couldn’t connect on his try and Jersey had itself a victory.
“It felt great,” Ridenhour said.
Jeremy Sanfilippo added, “He (Ridenhour) did what he needed to do.”
The third-seeded Explorers outshot the second-seeded Panthers 11-2 and had a 3-2 advantage in corner kicks. Kanallakan came up with six saves to keep Marquette from scoring. Matt Buchheit (first overtime), Caleb McClintock (second half) and Weinman (first half) had the best chances to score for the Explorers. Sanfilippo came up with a big save on Jersey's Jacob Witt in the final minute of the first half.
“The kids did what I asked them to do and I’m very proud of them,” coach Sanfilippo said. “You can’t will the ball into the goal.”
And Ridenhour wasn’t about to waver in a battle of wills.
“It really raised my confidence after I stopped the first penalty kick,” he said.
Burney added, “Drake is a good keeper and we have a lot of confidence in him. But Zac is a great athlete and he plays with a lot of composure. I would say there have been three or four times this season when we have put him in like that during a close game."
Friday’s regional champion advances to next week’s Chatham Glenwood Sectional. Triad has beaten Jersey twice – both by 3-0 scores – this season.
“Triad plays a physical game,” Burney said.
The Explorers, meanwhile, have high hopes for next season. Marquette loses only five players through graduation: Jacob Fischer, Nate Siener, Daniel Hartzell, Buchheit and McClintock. Buchheit was the leading scorer with 14 goals and 11 assists for 39 points. Siener had five goals and five assists for 15 points.
Seven juniors, seven sophomores and a freshman return, including junior goalie Brandon Sanfilippo. He logged nine wins and had a 1.11 goals against average. Junior Jacob File contributed six goals and four assists for 16 points. Sophomore Zach Weinman supplied 13 goals and eight assists for 34 points. And soph Jon Stewart provided seven goals and four assists for 18 points.
Juniors Adam Johnes, Alex Davis, Adam Hammond, Collin Dunn and Tommy Morrissey, plus sophomores Brendon Nickloy, Alex Cousley, Eric Lurtz, Brayden Kallmbah and Peter Wendle are back. So is freshman Jiggy Velloff.
MARQUETTE CLASS 2A REGIONAL
JERSEY 0, MARQUETTE 0
(Jersey wins, 2-0 via penalty kicks)
Marqeutte 0 0 (0) (0) –0
Jersey 0 0 (0) (0) –0
Note: The Panthers made 2-of-4 penalty kicks. The Explorers were 0-for-4 on their penalty kicks.
Shots: Marquette 11, Jersey 2
Corner kicks: Marquette 3, Jersey 2
Saves: Kanallakan (Jersey) 6, Sanfilippo (Marquette) 1