It all came down to Andrei Ciot.
With Union and Borgia knotted both in game score and penalty kicks, Ciot stepped to the line Tuesday night in the Class 2 District 9 championship match in St. Clair.
Ciot studied the goal as the rain came down and the wind whipped through the venue and fans on both sides stood in anticipation of the result of that kick.
Running up to the ball, Ciot ripped his kick into the net to give the Wildcats the district title, 3-2 (5-4 on penalty kicks).
“The kids played with their hearts on the line for all 80 minutes and then the extra 30,” Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey said. “They kept battling. They were down one early and fought to get back. I was really happy with the way they played and they deserved this victory.”
The game took an ominous turn early on when Borgia’s junior goalkeeper Joe Scheuler was rendered unconscious following contact in the 14th minute. He was taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Washington, where he was treated and released early Wednesday morning.
“It has been confirmed that he has a concussion,” said Borgia Head Coach Grant Kang. “He’s recovering steadily. He will make a recovery to full health. That’s a blessing.”
With the score tied at 4-4 heading to Union’s fifth shooter, Ciot’s goal came after Union’s senior goalkeeper Trey Fink stopped Borgia’s fifth shooter, junior Max Diener, at the left post.
“Every single one of those shots was money,” Fennessey said. “There wasn’t one really savable. The one Trey did save, that’s him. The shooters had the rain and the wind. We just knew it would come down to a big save by a keeper and Trey pulled it out for us. It was awesome.”
Kang said the saved shot was well-placed.
“It was a well-struck kick,” Kang said. “Trey made a very good save on the shot. We had five very good penalty kick takers. Usually, you have your most consistent shooter go fifth. In practice, he’s been our most consistent penalty kick taker.”
Union will host a sectional contest at Stierberger Stadium Tuesday at 6 p.m. The District 10 finals are being held Friday night in Bolivar between Rolla (24-2) and Helias (17-5).
“This is awesome for the boys,” Fennessey said. “They’re pumped up and ready to go. We knew we were the underdog in this game. We knew we had an outside shot. We’re excited and we’ll be ready to go in the sectional game.”
The championship was the third in Union program history.
The 2001 Wildcats also won against Borgia on penalty kicks, 1-0 (4-3 on penalty kicks). Fennessey and Assistant Coach Josh Wideman both played on that team. Fennessey not only was in goal for the Wildcats, but also made one of the penalty shots.
After beating Whitfield in the sectional, 1-0, the Wildcats lost to St. Charles West in the state quarterfinals, 3-0.
Union won the 2010 district title, but lost to Clayton in the sectional round.
As Union celebrated in the rain, thoughts turned to concern for Borgia’s starting goalkeeper, Scheuler.
“It’s one of those things you never want to see happen,” Fennessey, a former goalkeeper himself, said. “I’m not sure what happened. It didn’t look that bad. It was one of those freak things. We surely hope he is OK. Best wishes and prayers to him.”
The play was similar to ones seen many times each game. Scheuler came out and gathered the ball in front of the rush. The contact appeared to be incidental and it’s not known exactly which player collided.
“Joe came out to catch the ball,” Kang said. “After the collision, he was unconscious before he hit the ground. Many of the players were very worried when they saw that. That really effected the play of the game and some of the strategies we use. We had to make a number of adjustments. Obviously the team took a hit to its morale.”
After the teams couldn’t decide a winner through 80 minutes of regulation play and 30 minutes of overtime, it came down to penalty kicks.
Fink and Borgia sophomore Alex Piontek stepped in to defend the net for their respective teams.
Piontek had come into the game after Scheuler’s injury and the junior varsity goalkeeper faced his biggest challenge to decide the district title.
“Drew made some good saves,” Kang said. “He saved at least two shots which would have pretty clearly gone into the net.”
Borgia shot first.
Senior Zac Schweissguth gave Borgia the lead, hitting a goal to the left.
Union senior Nick Schumaker was the first shooter for the Wildcats, and he scored to the right side.
Borgia’s Adam Meyer then blasted a shot into the upper right corner.
Union kept pace with senior Alex Ciot scoring to the middle of the net.
Borgia senior Ben Kang hit a shot to the left and scored.
Union senior Nathan Saleniuc followed with a goal to the middle part of the net.
Borgia sophomore Jack Hellebusch then scored to the upper center of the goal.
Union senior Tylor Brown netted to the upper right.
And that brought up Diener. He sent a shot toward the lower left corner, but Fink guessed correctly, and was able to stop the ball.
That left it up to Alex Ciot. If he scored, Union won. If he missed, the penalty kicks continued
Alex Ciot found the net to give the Wildcats the title, the third in school history.
Scheuler’s injury halted play for some time as medical personnel were summoned. After he was stabilized and taken by ambulance to the hospital, the game resumed.
Borgia scored first. Hellebusch found the inside of the post on a long shot from about 25 yards out in the 27th minute.
Union responded immediately. With play building up, the Wildcats got the ball to Schumaker, who found an open spot while rushing from the left side. His shot to the upper right side of the net tied the score at 1-1.
“We just stuck with our game plan through the whole thing,” Fennessey said. “We just tried to keep getting the ball over the top. They were pressuring us and putting it into our end. I told the boys to keep getting it over the top and keep pressuring their defense and we’ll see what happens.”
That’s how the half ended.
Union senior Curtis Bergner cleared one Borgia chance off the line in the first half and Saleniuc did the same in the 50th minute to keep the contest tied.
Union took its first lead in the 56th minute. Alex Ciot took a shot from near the Union bench and it looped in over Piontek to give the Wildcats the advantage.
That goal stood until the 75th minute when Borgia senior Adam Meyer scored on a hard shot to tie it at 2-2.
“That was a very important goal for our team,” Kang said. “About 30 seconds before he scored, I shifted his position on top to be a better target player. That was a nice goal and well hit. Their keeper had been very difficult to beat all night long.”
In overtime, both teams had chances. Union seemed to have more of the better chances. The Wildcats hit one crossbar in the second overtime.
“Nick Schumaker and Emmet Parker were just tired out there,” Fennessey said. “They just kept running. Eventually, that’s what got us through.”
But both defenses held and it came down to penalty kicks to decide the winner.