The golden goal broke Union’s hearts.
Helias sophomore Maddison Lammers looped a long high ball which dropped under the crossbar in the 90th minute to lift Helias to a 3-2 overtime win against the Lady ’Cats Tuesday at Union Middle School.
“If you’ve watched any of our games, that goal right there has been our Achilles heel,” Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey said. “We’ve been beaten on that goal several times this year. If it was going to end, it was fitting it ended that way. I don’t want to take anything away from the girls because they played a heck of a game.”
The goal, Lammers’ second of the game, lifted Helias (15-8), last year’s Class 2 third-place team, into Saturday’s quarterfinal against either Republic or Carl Junction (they played Wednesday). Meanwhile, Union ended its season at 17-6.
“Last year, we get to this game and we get blown out by St. Dominic,” Fennessey said. “This year, we get to this game and we take a team that was third in the state last year to overtime. If you take it like that, it’s not that bad of a loss, but it still stings.”
If Fennessey had a feeling of deja vu, it’s because he’s seen that type of goal scored multiple times this season.
Union allowed similar goals to Rolla and Pacific among others this season. In all instances, the ball was cleared out to near the top of the box when an opposing player stepped into the ball and launched a high shot into the goal.
This time, Lammers was the player to make the strike.
The sequence leading up to the goal started when Union senior goalkeeper Briana Lakebrink was hit while making a save in the 84th minute and stayed down. She suffered a laceration on her chin and had to leave the contest.
Lakebrink had played all but 40 minutes in goal this season prior to the injury.
Freshman midfielder Natalie Helling stepped up to go into goal for Union and made a stop soon after taking over.
The Helias goal came just over five minutes later. Union cleared the initial chance, but Lammers stepped into the ball and looped it in for the winner.
“We’re disappointed it ended this way,” Fennessey said. “Our younger players will come back stronger for this.”
The game marked the closest chance for Union to advance beyond the sectional round since 2005-06. In that year, Union also forced overtime against Springfield Catholic in Waynesville, but also lost in the first overtime by a 3-2 score.
Union’s other sectional trips in recent years:
• In 2003-04, Union lost 3-0 to Springfield Catholic in the Class 1 sectional round.
• In 2004-05, Springfield Catholic defeated Union at the sectional match, 4-0.
• Last season, Union lost 6-0 to St. Dominic in a Class 2 sectional match.
“We’re really happy with the way the girls performed,” Fennessey said. “Don’t think it wasn’t a goal to get past this. We know that’s what has happened when we’ve gotten to the sectional game. We haven’t been able to get over the hump. We’re going to get there. We’ve got the right things going on with girls soccer in Union.”
Helias netted the opening goal in the 10th minute. Junior Tiffany Weaver followed a pass into the area and was there to knock it in after a Union player stopped the ball in front of Lakebrink.
Union tied it in the 17th minute after being awarded a free kick from the left side of the area about 25 yards out.
Junior Jordan Thorpe, who had subbed on for sophomore Kaylyn Bigley, stepped up to take the kick after sophomore Bethany Coons was brought down.
Thorpe launched a shot which went over Helias goalkeeper Liz Czarkecki and under the crossbar to knot the score.
“Jordan has a great shot,” Fennessey said. “It reminded me of Camdenton last year. She scored three goals in that game and one of them was like that. Bigley’s taking our free kicks 99 percent of the time. Thorpe went in there and gave us some valuable minutes. She drilled that one. I don’t think they saw that one coming. She’s got the potential to hit the longer free kicks.”
Helias took the lead again in the 27th minute. Lammers knocked in a rebound after Lakebrink made the initial save on a shot. The ball went just between Lakebrink and the goal post to make it 2-1.
Union equalized in the 52nd minute. Junior Kayla Thornton powered a shot into the upper right corner past Czarnecki from the right side after a couple of crisp passes sprung her in scoring position.
Bigley started the play, finding Coons, who passed it over to Thornton.
“Bethany found Thornton making a run to the back side,” Fennessey said. “Thornton has a heck of a shot. If she can get it on goal, she’s got so much speed and power on it, it’s hard to stop as a goalkeeper. She scored a nice goal.”
Fennessey was pleased with the two comebacks.
“Coming back twice was big,” Fennessey said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with in the games we’ve lost. We fought hard to get back into it and came just up a bit short in the end.”
“These seniors have seen tougher times,” Fennessey said. “They’ve seen the district games going the other way. They know what they’ve helped to start here at Union. Hopefully the tradition continues to give ourselves the chance to win the district and go on.”
Union graduates four seniors, and two of them were injured during the game.
“We’re going to miss those four girls tremendously,” Fennessey said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the four seniors who got us this far.”
Lakebrink went 17-5 in goal this season while playing 1,703 minutes. She had a 1.13 GAA and a .863 save percentage.
“Briana Lakebrink stood on her head for 80-plus minutes making big save after big save, denying them one-on-one and breakaway chances,” Fennessey said. “She gets a cut on her lip and wants to stay in the game.”
Alyssa Coons played a key role for the Lady ’Cats during her time at Union High School. She netted 18 goals with 22 assists this season and was one of Union’s top offensive players throughout her career.
She was hurt in the second half and had to come out with an ankle injury just over nine minutes left in regulation. After being taped up, she was able to return for the overtime session.
She will continue her soccer career at St. Charles Community College in the fall.
“Alyssa goes down and rolls her ankle pretty bad but she gets back in there in overtime,” Fennessey said.
Alicia Brueggemann was the rock in the middle of the offense for the Lady ’Cats this season. She netted two goals and added six assists while frequently being the last line of defense in front of Lakebrink.
“Alicia Brueggemann anchored us in the back,” said Fennessey.
Abbie Brack played a variety of different roles during her time at Union. She settled into a central defensive role this season while scoring two goals with five assists.
Brack, who will be playing next season at Hannibal-LaGrange University, netted both of her goals while playing at the far post on corner kicks.
“Abbie Brack went in head ball after head ball,” said Fennessey.
First Half Highlights
Union had the game’s first two strong chances, forcing Czarnecki to make saves after forcing a couple of corner kick chances.
Bethany Coons was able to make room early before Helias started to make sure three defenders watched where she went.
Helias recorded its first strong shot seven minutes into the game, forcing Lakebrink to make the stop. The Lady Crusaders built up from there, netting in the 10th minute to take the lead.
Union fought back, earning a chance to equalize off a restart and rebound, but the Lady ’Cats were called for a foul while still scrambling for the ball.
After Thorpe’s goal, Union had another chance after Helias was called for a hand ball. This time, Thorpe put her kick off the wall.
Bethany Coons was called for offsides to stop another chance.
Helias continued the pressure after taking the lead again. Lakebrink was forced to come up with big saves in the final minutes of the half.
Czarnecki also had to make a big stop in the final minute.
Second Half Highlights
Union pushed for an equalizer and had a golden chance in the 42nd minute, but freshman Taylor Gaebe put it over the net.
After Thornton equalized, Lakebrink was forced to dive, punch and smother the ball several times on Helias chances.
The Lady Crusaders were dangerous after finding holes in Union’s back four and launched one off the crossbar in the 70th minute, about one minute before Alyssa Coons was hurt.
In the 78th minute, Lakebrink dove on a loose ball after a shot.
And at the horn to end regulation, Lakebrink faced down a shot from Helias junior Jordan Poire. The shot came after the horn, but still missed the mark.
Alyssa Coons returned for Union and both teams had chances but couldn’t make them pay off.
Lakebrink’s final save was a huge one as she again kept the ball out of the net. The collision was not the first time in the contest she had been hit while making a save.
Meanwhile, Helias kept a strong defensive presence to keep Union from winning the game. Czarnecki was tested high, but came up with the save.
“We’ve got a lot of young talent coming back here next year and they’ll have the experience of being in a sectional game,” Fennessey said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. It’s coming. You can bet that this is going to make us stronger.”