EDWARDSVILLE — Minutes after beating the Quincy Blue Devils in the Class 3A Edwardsville Regional championship match on Friday, the Granite City Warriors found out they would be playing the Collinsville Kahoks in the Class 3A Joliet Central Sectional semifinal match at Edwardsville on Tuesday.
Then, all of the Granite City players were in the middle of the field screaming with joy.
"We were so excited because we wanted a chance to prove ourselves again and hopefully beat them," Granite City senior forward Paige Faulkner said.
When the Warriors lost 1-0 to Collinsville in the sectional semifinals on Tuesday, most of the players were in tears, including Faulkner.
"It was really hard," Faulkner said. "We wanted to go far and I knew that we can do it. We put up a fight and that's all we can do."
Collinsville improved to 19-3-1 and won its sixth straight match. The Kahoks advanced to the sectional championship match against either Bradley-Bourbonnais or Normal at 11 a.m. Saturday at Joliet Central High. Bradley-Bourbonnais and Normal will square off in the other sectional semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Joliet Central.
The Kahoks beat the Warriors for the second time this season. Collinsville beat Granite City 3-0 on April 23 that clinched the Kahoks their fifth straight conference championship. Collinsville was 6-0 in league play.
"It's hard to beat a team twice in this conference," Collinsville coach Clay Smith said. "I put together the hardest schedule I possibly could for this high school team this season to get us to this point. Our conference is one of the toughest in the bottom of the state. Our regional is one of the toughest. We have a tough road to go through. Hopefully, we're not done yet, so we'll see what happens when we go (to Joliet for the sectional final)."
The Warriors finished their season at 11-9-2 for the second year in a row. After being 4-8-1 on April 28, Granite City went 7-1-1 in its next nine matches, including a pair of tournament championships — the Tournament of Champions at Burlington, Iowa and the Class 3A Edwardsville Regional.
"We all started coming out to practice and working really hard and working together and trying because we knew we wanted it," Faulkner said. "We flipped our season around and it's been the best season I've ever had."
Twelve Granite City seniors played their final high school soccer match on Tuesday, including Faulkner.
"I'll miss them a lot," Granite City coach Kenny Prazma said. "Those are 12 girls I hate to miss. They were my first freshman class coming in as a head coach. Unfortunately, they're gone now.”
Another Granite City senior, Leann Smith, suffered a head injury with 14 minutes left in the first half and sat out for the rest of the match.
"She usually controls the back and without her in there made it a little bit tougher on us, but the girls played well," Prazma said. "I can't fault the girls in the back."
Six Collinsville seniors will get to play at least one more match, including Sophia Sharos and Mikayla McCarthy. The two players have a combined for a total of 30 goals.
Collinsville junior Kathryn Kesserman scored the lone goal of the match with 12:59 left in the game. A throw-in from McCarthy bounced off the head of Granite City sophomore defender Hannah Miller. Then, the ball landed in front of Kesserman and she scored her fourth goal of the season.
"I was hoping that the ball was going to end up going out of bounds if she (Miller) wouldn't have touched it," Prazma said. "But she did. Unfortunately, it came out right infront. Sometimes those things happen."
Twelve minutes earlier, the Kahoks thought they scored a goal when McCarthy received a pass from Emily Holten and kicked the ball past Granite City goalkeeper Gabbie Hartin. But the referees waived off the goal.
"It was kind of weird," Prazma said. "I think everybody thought Collinsville had scored, but we can see the referees from the very beginning that they were calling no goal. Then, the line person said there was no goal."
With no stoppage in play, Granite City sophomore Lexi Grote attempted to score on a breakaway with no one defending her, but her shot was stopped by Collinsville sophomore goalkeeper Morgan Lerch.
"It was crazy," Granite City senior midfielder Sam Penrod said. "All of our adrenaline was pumped in. We almost scored when Lexi had a breakaway. I think if she had scored that, it would have been a game changer."
The Kahoks have been successful since Smith took over head coaching duties in 2011.
Collinsville has won 81 matches, captured five Southwestern Conference championships and won four regional titles. Now, the Kahoks are a step away from winning their third sectional championship in four years.
"I wanted us to make a name for ourselves and put in some hard work and establish a good respectful program," said Smith, whose team beat O’Fallon in the regional championship match on Friday. "In that first year, we started off 10-0 and I don't know what hit us, but we got rolling, so we kept it going. I credit all of the girls who graduated and went through this program. We're a strong family and they come back and they talk to the girls and they visit. Credit the girls who come out in this field wearing purple because they buy into it."