COLUMBIA — Don't ever count out the Marquette Catholic Explorers.
For the second game in a row the Explorers erased a 1-0 deficit to pull out a 2-1 win. After besting Mater Dei 2-1 in Tuesday's Class 1A Columbia Sectional semifinals, Marquette topped Gibault 2-1 in overtime on Friday to win the sectional crown and keep its season alive.
The Explorers (15-5-3) advance to face Rochester (23-6-0), which won 4-1 over Williamsville at the 1A Quincy Notre Dame Sectional finals. Marquette and Rochester meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Springfield Super Sectional at the University of Illinois-Springfield. It's a rematch of the supers from a year ago, which went in favor of the Rockets 2-1 in OT.
“We've done that all year,” Marquette head coach Steve Mitchell said of coming from behind. “We were down a goal to Edwardsville, we tied it up. We were down a goal to Mater Dei we came back and won, we were down a goal tonight, but I don't like being down a goal.”
Luckily for the Explorers Elissa Senno scored in the 72nd minute to tie it 1-1 and force overtime. Annabelle Copeland picked up the assist on the goal.
That set up Lauren Schmickley to win it with a goal in the 93rd minute off a fine crossing pass from Adriana Schindler in the second overtime.
“I was really surprised it went in like that,” a giggly Schmickley said. “I was really nervous. I'm glad it went in though. I got a great feed from Adriana and it was a great shot. I just kind of shot it and hoped it went in.
“It was so much relief because I really want to go to the state finals so bad.”
It was frustrating for Gibault head coach Matt Reeb, whose Hawks looked like they would stave off the Explorers for the win in regulation. Gibault closes its campaign at 8-10-0.
“We scored the one goal we did, but we couldn't quite hang defensively at the very end when we were trying to pack numbers back,” Reeb said.
The Hawks, who lost to the Explorers 3-0 on April 28, watched as favored Marquette controlled the tempo early. The Explorers kept applying pressure to no avail in the first 15-20 minutes of the game.
Gibault's Abby Hasenstab snapped the scoreless tie in the 22nd minute. Hasenstab was right in front of the goal where she had a little bit of contact with Marquette goalie Lauren Fischer. Her kick rolled slowly toward the right post, deflected off it and trickled in to stake the Hawks to a 1-0 lead. It looked like it may be the only offense needed.
“When they got that goal they got — I didn't agree with it, but that's soccer and it's the way it goes, you can't take it back — I knew they were going to pack the box and I knew they were going to be rough,” Mitchell said. “We just started pressing three, four forwards and trying to confuse them, four mids, three mids, three backs and finally we got a goal. Once we got the goal we stopped playing nervous. We were playing nervous a goal down. We were just kicking the ball, then we scored a goal and we started moving the ball around. Thank goodness we scored and didn't have to go to PKs.”
Marquette had its opportunities. In regulation the Explorers outshot the Hawks 16-5 and won on corners 8-2. For the game they outshot Gibault 20-5 and won 9-3 on corners.
Finally in the 72nd minute Marquette earned a corner which was taken by Copeland. The talented sophomore booted the ball on goal and the Hawks were unable to clear the ball. Senno found herself in the middle of the scrum and deflected it off a Gibault defender's arm and in to tie it 1-1.
“It was a little frustrating but we kept working on it and it finally went in,” Marquette senior Kate Sanfilippo said. “I think a change of pace happened in the game and we all started working together.”
Sanfilippo did her darnedest to propel the Explorers to victory. She pounded shots off the crossbar twice in the second half, narrowly missing goals.
“That was really frustrating,” said Sanfilippo. “Oh my gosh.”
Mitchell is just glad he's got his senior leader on the field and knows he'll miss her next year when she moves on to play for Northern Illinois. He thought when she settled in to the game it went better for the Explorers.
“When we got down a goal she was doing too much,” Mitchell said. “She was trying to do it all herself like she was panicking. We got to halftime and we got her settled down and then we started getting a lot of shots and we were moving the ball a little bit. Finally when it went in it didn't look like they could contain her anymore. She's a great kid and a great player and I'm going to hate to lose her.”
Sanfilippo had a chance in the first overtime on a free kick, but Gibault's defense was able to clear it. In the second overtime it looked like she may put Marquette up, but Hawks' goalie Kelly Dooley made a nifty diving save in the 91st minute on her shot to keep it tied.
Finally in the 93rd minute Schmickley sent the Explorers into jubilation. Schindler put a beautiful crossing pass on the foot of Schmickley who tapped in a one timer along the left post for the game winner.
The win sets the stage for the rematch Marquette has been hungry for all year. Rochester beat the Explorers with a goal in the closing seconds of OT a year ago in the supers and they are ready for their chance at redemption.
“They beat us in the last couple seconds of double overtime and we have to get them back,” Schmickley said. “We just really want to win and really want to go to the state finals, so we have to beat them.”
Sanfilippo added, “I'm so excited. We're going to come out as a team, come out strong and fast and hopefully get a win and go to state.”
Mitchell admitted his team hasn't forgotten the heartbreak they felt from the Rockets. He's certain it will be a great game.
“We've been talking about it all year,” he said. “It was 2.2 seconds last year, so it's in the back of their minds, but if we play a little slow like we did here we won't be able to comeback against that team.
“Nobody wants to see the best team in the area, but I think right now we're the two best 1A teams there are. I think it's going to be a great game and the two best teams are going to go at it and we're going to see what happens.”