Indians use familiar strategy
Sunday, June 7, 2009
St. Vincent again struck early and never looked back in winning its first state soccer title.
FENTON -- Emily Cissell seized the state's biggest stage and made it her own.
The St. Vincent sophomore staked her team to an early lead in the Class 1 state girls soccer championship game Saturday with her third goal of the final four.
"I saw it come down the field so I started coming down the field," she said. "I could see they were starting to cross and I tried to get in position and it just happened."
Cissell scored less than five minutes into the game to get the Indians off on the right foot for the second consecutive game. They rode that early momentum to a 3-1 victory over Trinity Catholic to capture the state championship at the Anheuser-Busch Center. It was St. Vincent's first state title in girls soccer.
"We are so excited," Cissell said. "This has been our goal since Day 1. We've been striving to win this."
Cissell, a midfielder, had scored seven goals entering the final four. But she found her scoring touch at the right time. She scored twice in the semifinal against St. Pius X of Kansas City before adding a goal Saturday.
"She's always calm, cool and collected," St. Vincent junior Liz Brueckner said. "That's just Em. She's just always there for us."
Cissell said she knows where to be from years of experience. She's played with most of her St. Vincent teammates for years and they know each other's abilities.
"We know where each other is without looking," she said. "We kind of know where everyone's going to play the ball. We know each other that well.
"Most of us have been playing together since we were little kids in leagues and stuff."
Indians coach Dustin Wengert acknowledged Cissell's ability to remain in the proper position, but was at a loss to explain her performance at the final four.
"She never ever, ever is out of position," Wengert said. "By far, probably her best two games of the year. Not that she played bad, just she really stepped up. Maybe she likes the crowd. Maybe she likes the site. But man, she just played dynamite these two days up here."
The Indians (20-5) controlled the tempo from the beginning, seemingly winning every 50-50 ball. The Titans didn't manage a shot until halfway through the first half, and that harmlessly sailed over the goal.
St. Vincent created chances but couldn't build on its lead until Courtney Besand scored her team-leading 18th goal this season. After a nice cross into the box, Besand wrangled a rebound, worked for a better shot and beat Trinity goalie Taylor Zerbe for the 2-0 lead with 4:06 left in the first half.
Trinity finally sustained a rush midway through the second half, and Jenn Eaton pulled the Titans within a goal when she got off a low, diving shot that beat Indians goalie Anne Steele with 19:14 left in the game.
"I was worried they were going to score another because for a while we let back a little bit," St. Vincent junior Kristin Mattingly said. "They were on our half for a good while there. I was getting a little scared."
Steele put pressure on herself after allowing the goal.
"I've got to keep the ball out, that's what was going through my mind," she said. "Do not let them score, do not let them score. Then I was thinking that we need to score."
As the Titans attempted to mount a rally, the Indians tried to keep their composure.
"It was really nerve-racking," Brueckner said. "We were like, 'Get the ball out, get the ball out.' We didn't want all of our hard work to go down the drain so quickly."
St. Vincent tried to rebuild its two-goal lead and a golden opportunity came when freshman Storm French was one-on-one with the goalie, but French rang her shot off the crossbar.
Brueckner calmed the Indians' nerves when she barely got her foot on a ball and pushed it toward the goal. The ball trickled past the outstretched Zerbe and into the corner for the Indians' third goal with 8:08 left.
"It was wimpy, but it worked," Brueckner said. "It was big because even if they would have come back and got another one, we still would have had one to lean back on. It was pretty big."
Steele, who hadn't faced a shot on goal until there was 19:30 left in the game, could breathe a little easier after Brueckner's goal.
"It was a very big sense of relief because I looked up at the clock and there was less than 10 minutes," Steele said. "I was like, 'Thank you, God, thank you God.'"
St. Vincent changed its defensive strategy with the late two-goal lead. The Indians tried to belt the ball as far down the field as possible to thwart the Titans' last-ditch effort.
"We were planning on kicking it to the corners and trying not to play with it and not let them get another goal," Mattingly said. "Once we scored that last goal, it was a lot easier. I was nervous for a while."
Steele, who was facing the scoreboard during the second half, avoided watching the time click away. But when the horn sounded, she stormed toward her teammates in a mob of hugging and cheering to celebrate the championship.
"It was definitely worth it," Steele said of her team's work during the season. "I wouldn't take back anything we did this year. Nothing."