Union freshman Bethany Coons blasted in a golden goal in the 87th minute Wednesday to lift the Union soccer Lady ’Cats to the Class 2 District 7 championship over top-seeded Borgia in Sullivan, 2-1.
“I’m very proud of our team,” Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey said. “They battled through everything in this game and came out ahead of it. They fought hard. Hat’s off to Borgia. They didn’t give us an inch the whole game.”
Borgia Head Coach Jeff Hill said Union took advantage when it had the chances.
“Give The Union Lady ’Cats credit, they didn’t give up and they finished when they had the chance,” Hill said. “Good luck to them and I hope they go all the way.”
Union (21-3) advances to face the winner of Friday’s District 8 championship between St. Dominic (20-2) and St. Charles West (8-12).
The sectional game will be played at the District 8 winner’s home field Tuesday.
“They’re going to be good, but right now I think we can play with anybody,” Fennessey said.
“I think we played better as a team tonight than we have in the past,” Union sophomore Kaila AuBuchon said. “I think tonight was one of our better games. I think we can do it if we keep playing like we did tonight.”
The game-winning goal came after Union worked the ball in with three players as junior Alyssa Coons had to move right to take a pass.
Alyssa Coons passed the ball to the middle for sophomore Kayla Thornton, who deflected it over to an open Bethany Coons.
It was the 55th goal of the season for Coons, who also assisted on Union’s first goal.
“It (the goal) actually looked pretty big because I was right there,” Bethany Coons said. “I was glad it went in. “I was marked the whole game. I’m just glad I wasn’t there. I had an open shot.”
Fennessey said good teamwork produced the goal.
“It’s a team game,” Fennessey said. “The buildup was perfect because I think there were about six passes right in a row which led to that. If Kayla Thornton doesn’t make that near-post run and make Mackenzie honor her, Bethany’s not wide open there. It was great. It was awesome. I’m very proud of the team.
As had been the case in the first meeting early in the season, the two teams were very evenly matched.
Both squads had scoring chances, but nobody broke through until Borgia sophomore Emily Grahl scored at the 58:38 mark after taking the ball up the middle and then moving left. Her shot on the ground bounced in off the right post.
“Defensively, we played outstanding,” Fennessey said. “Holding Emily to one goal is a tough feat.”
That brought a flurry of activity from both teams and the Lady ’Cats flowed the offense through Bethany Coons. In the 66th minute, she headed a pass from Alyssa Coons just wide of the left post.
Union junior goalkeeper Briana Lakebrink made a huge save on another Grahl shot at the 72:34 mark.
“Briana Lakebrink made a fantastic save to keep us in the game,” Fennessey said. “I’m so proud of her because she’s new to this and she made a big save at a big moment. I’m really proud of her and the job she did.”
That save proved to be huge a couple of minutes later.
“We had them beat but we didn’t finish them off,” said Hill. “We had a couple of great chances to score when we were leading 1-0, and either missed the goal, shot it right at their goalie, or their goalie came up big with a couple of stupendous saves.”
At the 74:11 mark, Union drew level. Senior Brittany Faber took a corner kick and Bethany Coons headed it onto the goal from inside the box. The ball bounced around before AuBuchon knocked it past Borgia senior goalkeeper Mackenzie Haddox to bring it even at 1-1.
“If Kaila AuBuchon is not standing there in the right place, that ball goes wide and we lose, 1-0,” Fennessey said.
“I don’t know. I was just on that back post and it just went in,” said AuBuchon. “I guess it was just luck. I think I just got lucky and it hit. I guess I was in the right place at the right time.”
“Matt made some good decisions and it worked out for them,” Hill said. “The coaches can make adjustments, but the players have to make plays and their players made the plays and ours didn’t.”
In the overtime, both goalkeepers were tested. Less than a minute into the first sudden-victory period, Bethany Coons split the defense, but shot high. Grahl forced Lakebrink to make a save on the other end.
And that’s how it stood until Bethany Coons found her shot and buried the game winner.
Borgia graduates nine seniors, Kate Biermann, Mary Catherine Cook, Jessica Diermann, Mackenzie Haddox, Jodi Hellebusch, Nicole Holzem, Ana Ratcliff, Brittany Walsh and Katie Willenbrink.
“We will miss our seniors,” Hill said. “They were the best class of seniors I’ve ever coached and they were not only great players, but great leaders and ultimate team players. But our future is bright as we had 11 underclassmen on the varsity roster and several JV players that are ready to contribute on the varsity level.”