UPDATED – St Dominic’s came to North County this afternoon with eight straight wins, and no goals allowed since their opener on March 16th at Howell North. Squaring off against a familiar foe, at a place that still gives Head Coach Greg Koeller shivers whenever the Aquinas grad steps on the pitch, it wasn’t until the final whistle that a win was guaranteed tonight.
The Crusader’s are a wonderful example of the beautiful game, a team blessed with skill, pace and a growing confidence in their game that will hold them in good stead in their March to the Final 4 in Blue Springs this June. They showed their composure with 1-0 wins at Incarnate Word and St Joseph in previous weeks and they applied those lessons well in coming away with the win Tuesday at Trinity.
The Titan’s came out in a 5-4-1 alignment to address the Crusader’s offensive skills. Anchored by senior captains Amy Exely (#7) and Kim Meyer (#5) in the center defense, Trinity seemed prepared to ‘park the bus’ in an effort to keep the score close. Despite that, St Dominic’s grabbed an early lead in this game from a set piece. Sophomore Allison Birke’s (#8) free kick from 40 yards out near the touchline was nodded into the net by junior Emily Monroe (#9) when she rose over her defender and the on-rushing keeper near the penalty spot.
Trinity responded to that set back by increasing their effort and slowly began to push back, finding time to settle the ball themselves and work the wings. Led by sophomore Julia Gubicya (#10) and senior Jen Eaton (#3), the team got their first shot on goal midway through the first half from Eaton. Eaton would expand on that effort in the 34th minute when she collected a goal kick from senior Katie Costello, who boomed a ball to midfield following a St Dominic attack. Eaton’s skills were a pleasure to watch this afternoon and she displayed them to full effect now, settling the ball and moving up the right wing. Her perfectly weighted thru ball sent freshman Erica Douglas (#14) into the box ahead of her defender. Applying a quick lesson reinforced earlier by Coach Drake, she held the defender off before slotting her shot shot to the far side and knotting the score. It is Douglas’ first Varsity goal.
Head Coach Koeller, as noted earlier a graduate of Aquinas and former player under Head Coach Vince Drake, also has a very deep squad. With only two players – center back Birke and freshman keeper Paige Whitehead – playing the entire 80 minutes, he rotated two squads through the match tonight. The 2nd half starters came out hard working to find a game-winner. They found it in the 58th minute following a short period of ball movement looking for an opening. Junior Cristina Rodriguez (#14) set things in motion, receiving a ball about 30 yards out with her left foot, she quickly sent it forward with her right foot, sending junior Kristin Wolff (#7) down the right side towards the end line. Wolff collected the ball, made one touch towards the goal and sent a cross to the top of the six yard box. That’s where junior Brianne Ebenroth (#4) ran onto it and half-volleyed the ball to the far post as the defense could only watch (video below).
Birke would later rocket a direct kick off the left upright from 26 yards out but it was Trinity who were pushing forward to getting the tying goal in the final minutes of the match, including a flurry in the 77th minute that required two clearances in the box by the Crusader’s to hold onto their win.
A key win for the Crusader’s as they showed the composure to win on the road, on a traditional pitch that is not as conducive to their passing game as the artificial surface of their home field, and the Blue Springs Final 4 site. For the Titan’s a confidence boost as they should have an easy path in Districts but will likely need to beat Visitation in the Sectionals for the chance to see St Dominic’s again in the Quarterfinals.
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