It’s not a long time, but for the Union soccer Lady ’Cats (21-4), that’s how long it took to end one of the most successful seasons in program history.
St. Dominic (25-2) needed just under four minutes to score what turned out to be the game-winning goal from the opening of Tuesday’s MSHSAA Class 2 sectional in O’Fallon.
And the Lady Crusaders needed just four minutes in the second half to put the game out of reach in the 6-0 victory.
“We slowed down and got our heads down when they got that second goal and it was four goals in four minutes,” Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey said. “It’s over at that point. The girls knew that. They’re the No. 1 team in the state and I don’t think anyone is going to beat them in Class 2. They’re that talented. Watching them is fun. It was a successful year for Union. Any time we can win our district is a good year.”
St. Dominic showed why many consider the team the favorite to win the Class 2 state championship this season. The Lady Crusaders moved quickly, using speed and ball movement to keep Union chasing for most of the game. Using a mix of crisp one-touch play and short passes, St. Dominic was able to move into attacking position time after time.
“We went and watched them last Friday and it’s the best team I’ve seen up to this point since I’ve been coaching in girls soccer,” Fennessey said about scouting St. Dominic. “With their ball movement, passing, the ability to play other positions and adjust as the play goes on, they are incredible. They continued to do it again tonight. We thought we had a pretty good game plan coming into the game. They scored early and shattered everything we were thinking. St. Dominic probably is the best team I’ve ever seen in girls soccer. I hope they go on and win. If you’re going to lose, you might as well lose to the state champions.”
Pressure stayed in the Union defensive end much of the game, forcing junior goalkeeper Briana Lakebrink to make many big saves just to keep the game close through the first half.
“Everything they were getting was inside the box and at point-blank range in the first half,” Fennessey said. “She was making some up close and personal saves. She kept us in it. It was all her fault we were in that game going into the second half.”
Offensively, Union was able to break out a few times in the game. Union earned one corner kick and forced St. Dominic’s goalkeeper, sophomore Megan Swanson, to have to handle the ball a few times.
“We had one or two chances, but we really didn’t test their goalkeeper at all,” Fennessey said. “I think she had a couple of saves on balls we rolled to her. We didn’t get much on net. It was really difficult to get something going. When we needed two or three touches, we only got one. They were there that fast. Everybody on their team was that fast. It was tough to get anything going. They, by far, were the best team we’ve played this year.”
St. Dominic set the tone early in the game. Junior Brianne Ebenworth scored with sophomore Molly Ream earning the assist at the 3:49 mark.
But, despite pressuring the Union goal for most of the rest of the half, that was all St. Dominic managed before the intermission.
Lakebrink did what she could to keep Union in the game, making several saves in the first half and then pushing the ball off the post just 2:20 into the second half. But the onslaught was far from over.
“She played out of her mind,” Fennessey said. “It’s never fun to say your goalie played awesome and six goals were scored on you, but that’s what happened tonight. She did a great job. She had one bad arm. She hurt her wrist earlier this week, but she was out there and she gave it everything she had. You couldn’t tell that she was injured. I was exceptionally happy with the job she did tonight.”
In just under four minutes, the Lady Crusaders netted four goals to put the game out of reach. Starting at the 43:58 mark and running to the 47:54 mark, St. Dominic put the ball into the back of the Union goal four times to take a 5-0 lead.
Junior Kristin Wolff scored at the 43:58 mark, just under four minutes into the second half, with senior Danielle Hartnett assisting to make it 2-0.
A little over a minute later, at the 45:17 mark, junior Cristina Rodriguez blasted a ball under the crossbar. Lakebrink got hands on the ball, but could not stop it. Sophomore Sydni Young assisted on the play.
At the 46:53 mark, junior Emily Monroe ripped a shot from the right side to make it 4-0. Wolff assisted on the goal.
Monroe, St. Dominic’s top scorer this season, showed she didn’t need much room to shoot, scoring after taking a pass and turning in the middle of the attacking zone at the 47:54 mark. Ebenroth assisted on the goal.
So, in just under four minutes, St. Dominic turned a close 1-0 game into a 5-0 rout.
And the Lady Crusaders weren’t done. Two seconds past the hour mark, junior Brittany Marino pounced on a rebound and scored to make it 6-0.
Union graduates four seniors, midfielders Brittany Faber, Kayla Sitzes and Courtney Groves and defender Brooke Breeden.
“We accomplished a lot this year,” Fennessey said. “While it’s never easy to lose a 6-0 game you want to win, the better team won tonight.”