For the third consecutive year, and fourth year out of five, the Collinsville High School girls soccer team is Regional champions.
Freshman Emily Holten scored early and often for the Kahoks (14-5-2), netting the first hat trick of her high school career in the 5-0 victory over Belleville West. Kahoks Head Coach Clay Smith said Holten was yet to realize what she had accomplished.
“I’m not sure she understands the magnitude of what she did yet. But, as a freshman, coming in here and scoring three goals in the regional finals, that’s big time,” Smith said.
Holten opened the scoring when she made a run down the right side of the field and beat her defender. Junior Sophia Sharos threaded the needle with a 20-yard pass to put the ball at Holten’s feet. The freshman charged in and hit the ball across the face of the goal, beating the goalkeeper and putting the ball in the side netting, about halfway up the post 11 minutes and 20 seconds into the Regional final.
Mackenzie White made a diving save of a Holten shot with 12:06 remaining in the first half, narrowly averting the second goal of the match for the freshman.
Collinsville had the better of play in the first half. Despite dominating so thoroughly that the grass on the western half of the field was in danger of turning brown, CHS was unable to add a goal and went into the half with a 1-0 lead.
Belleville West (10-8) started the second half more aggressive and getting better looks on goal. Jamie Adams nearly tied the match and broke the Kahoks 4 and 1/2 game streak of not allowing a goal when her ball from 10 feet away beat Collinsville goalkeeper Holly Bluemner. However, as Bluemner watched helplessly, the ball ricocheted off the left post and bounced harmlessly away.
Matty Merlak played a ball a ball into the box on a set play with 31:22 remaining. Holten tipped the ball it into back of the net with her head, beating West’s goalkeeper to her right. It was the freshman’s first header goal of the season.
“There was space in the middle and I found it,” Holten said. “I just knew if I could get my head on it I could get it, and I did.”
Collinsville unleashed a barrage of goals over the final 14 minutes of the contest. With 13:53 remaining, the ball bounced around in front of the West net before bouncing off a Maroon defender and into the net. Mikayla McCarthy was credited with the goal.
With just under seven minutes remaining, Holten completed her hat trick when Andrea Frerker found Holten, who had made a run and beaten the defense. White came sprinting out of goal at the hard charging Holten, who got a boot on the ball at the last minute and chipped it over White and into the net to give Collinsville a commanding 4-0 lead.
Frerker closed the scoring when she turned on a bouncing ball in the penalty box and buried it in the upper, right corner of the goal.
After the match, an emotional Smith said he was proud of his team.
“These girls weren’t given much of a shot at the beginning of the season. It’s hard to replace what we lost,” Smith said, referring to the six seniors that were lost from last year’s Super-Sectional team. “I’m proud of what they could accomplish through hard work and determination.”
Smith said the team’s work ethic sets them apart from their opponents.
“That’s what I love about them, every day they come in to work,” Smith said. “They proved tonight that they outwork their opponents. This team, they’re all heart, they’re fun to be around.”
The Lady Kahoks have outworked their opponents to the tune of 25-0 and a 5-0 record in their last five matches.
Collinsville takes its first step toward defending it’s Sectional title when they play Edwardsville (21-1) at 4:30 p.m. Although the match is part of the Normal Community High School Sectional, it will be played at Gordon Moore Park in Alton because there are two teams from Southern Illinois competing.