ALTON — The Edwardsville Tigers and Marquette Catholic Explorers both have solid girls' soccer programs. Unfortunately neither of them won bragging rights Wednesday at Gordon Moore Park, as they squared off to a 1-1 stalemate.
The tie was the second for both squads on the young season, as Marquette is now 4-1-2, while EHS is 6-1-2.
Head coach Steve Mitchell won't complain about his Class 1A Explorers battling to a tie with the Class 3A Tigers.
“I'm absolutely happy with that second half,” Mitchell said. “That first half I was pretty upset and we had a heart to heart discussion down there and they responded to it. They knew I wasn't happy, but I don't think they were happy with themselves either.”
It truly was the tale of two halves. In the first half, Edwardsville dominated, outshooting the Explorers 5-0 and winning the corners 4-1.
The second half it was Marquette stepping it up and outshooting the Tigers 3-0. The Explorers still trailed 3-2 on the corners though.
Fittingly, Edwardsville's goal came in the first half, while Marquette tickled the twine in the last half.
EHS head coach Abby Comerford admitted the Tigers were playing a little shorthanded and thought that hindered them in the game.
“In the second half we had some other commitments at school, so Jane Ann (Crabtree) wasn't there,” Comerford said. “Mallory (Mushill) wasn't there the whole game, so we're missing two major components of our back line, so it was big trying to get other girls to adjust to playing. Jane Ann and Mallory usually don't even come out of the game, so it was just trying to get some other girls adjusted to that position.”
It didn't seem to limit the Tigers early though, as they controlled time of possession and pressured the Explorers continuously.
EHS got on the board in the 12th minute when senior Allison Pitchford blasted a goal past Marquette keeper Lauren Fischer into the top left corner of the net. Abigail Crabtree assisted on the goal.
It proved to be the only scoring of the first half. The Tigers did have another great opportunity when senior Riley Mushill clanged a shot off the left post in the 30th minute.
Mitchell was noticeably perturbed as the whistle sounded to end the first half and he let his girls know during halftime discussions.
“Our little discussion we had was, 'Either play this half, or we're going to play at practice a whole lot and you're not going to like it,'” Mitchell said. “They just didn't play the first half. They didn't come out like they wanted it, we were lazy, we didn't do anything positioning wise that we talked about. During the second half you could see they started to run, they started to hustle and challenge the ball and it creates chances.”
The Explorers' chance came in the 43rd minute. Annabelle Copeland streaked toward the goal and was met by EHS keeper Lauren Serfas attempting to cut her off. Serfas went for the ball and clipped Copeland, resulting in a foul inside the box leading to a penalty kick being awarded to Marquette.
Junior Lauren Schmickley took the PK and simply smoked a line drive past Serfas to knot it at 1-1. It was Schmickley's team-leading third goal of the season.
“Lauren Schmickley who scored that, she's nails on PKs, so I knew we were in good shape,” Mitchell said. “I was just glad to see Annabelle get in there and go after the ball hard, because that's what we have to have.”
Mitchell believes some adjustments to the Marquette offense have allotted for more scoring opportunities and more chances to apply pressure on defense. Copeland and senior Kate Sanfilippo are key to that attack.
“Right now with Kate and Annabelle up top, good luck with finding a 1A team that can stop those two,” Mitchell said. “They've never played together select or anything, so they are learning about each other. We are seven games in and they are starting to get some chances now. During the Alton game we weren't creating anything, so we switched a few players around and now we're starting to get some chances and we're getting the ball out wide. We kept trying to play the ball down the gut, down the gut, down the gut and now we're playing out wide and we're creating some chances... We start scoring goals, look out.”
Comerford gave credit to the Explorers for their tenacious work in the second half, too.
“Marquette is a tough team and they're always a tough team,” Comerford said. “It's always a 1-0 or a tie game, something along those lines.”
The Explorers had more chances as the second half moved along, including a pair of corner kicks in the final five minutes where they were unable to produce. It was decided prior to the game with stormy weather on the horizon and a JV game to play, that there would be no overtime and if the contest was tied at the conclusion of regulation, that's how it would remain.
Marquette now gets back to business against a 1A opponent at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Roxana. Mitchell understands the importance of playing the larger schools though. Currently the Explorers are 2-0-2 against 3A programs this year and they look to play more as the season progresses.
“Our schedule is so bottom heavy,” Mitchell said. “We don't play anything at first and then we're loaded at the end. We're trying to play as many 3A schools as we can. April 21 we just took on another game against Normal Community. They're going to drive two and a half hours down and give us a game. That will be another good one and that's before we go to Sacred Heart-Griffin and some other big schools.”