Methodical finishing proved to be the difference Wednesday as the Union soccer Lady ’Cats rolled to a 5-0 win over host Borgia to win the Class 2 District 9 championship.
Union (17-5) scored twice in the first half and three times in the second while recording the clean sheet against Borgia (7-12).
“It feels really good to go back-to-back with district championships,” Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey said. “I’m real proud of the girls and the job they did to get to this point.”
Borgia Head Coach Grant Kang said Borgia achieved one of its goals by playing in the title contest.
“We were very glad to make it to the final,” Kang said. “Playing in the district finals was one of our goals for the season.”
Sophomores Bethany Coons and Bri Clark each scored twice while freshman Taylor Gaebe netted the game-winning goal in the third minute.
Union will host the Class 2 sectional match Tuesday at 6 p.m. The opponent will be Helias, a 1-0 winner over Rolla Thursday in the District 10 championship match.
“Helias is another formidable opponent,” Fennessey said. “There are only 16 teams left. There are no chumps left. It’s just a matter of who you draw.”
The match could be the final one played with the Lady ’Cats calling Union Middle School home. Work will start on a new turf field at Stierberger Stadium later this month and plans call for the Union soccer teams to move to the high school facility.
“It looks like it will be the last game there,” Fennessey said. “We talked about it after the Farmington game. We want to leave that field with a win. We were let down then by not getting the win. Now, we have another chance to go ahead and get that win for all the alumni and the school. That field has given so many people so many memories. It would be nice to get a win in its last game.”
The only way Union would be able to host a quarterfinal game May 25 would be if it wins the sectional and the District 11 champion (Willard and Republic play Friday for the title at 3 p.m.) defeats Carl Junction in the other sectional.
“We’re going to be able to go through our normal routine and have more fans there,” Fennessey said. “The last sectional game we played there was with the boys against Clayton. It’s nice to have another home game there.”
Union’s win over Borgia was the second of the season for the Lady ’Cats, who beat Borgia 6-0 in the second game of the season.
“We knew they were going to be tougher,” Fennessey said. With their conference and their schedule, they have no choice but to get better. They play a really tough schedule. The girls just stuck with our game plan and did a really good job of that. We limited their offensive chances, got the ball wide where we wanted it and got into one-on-one situations with Taylor Gaebe and Kaylyn Bigley.”
While the score was similar to the first game, the contest had a much different pace.
“I’m real proud of the performances,” Fennessey said. “Marissa Groves shut down Emily Grahl and really limited her chances. Bri Clark and Bethany came up big with two goals apiece. Overall, it was a great team game.”
Union scored twice in the first half Wednesday, opposed to four first-half goals in the game earlier in the season.
Gaebe netted the opening goal 2:56 into the game. Gaebe broke up the middle and beat Borgia senior goalkeeper Emily Sisco to the left.
“That took a lot of weight off,” Fennessey said. “Prior to that, they were in our end. If they get one in, you never know how the game’s going to go forward from that point. That was our first offensive chance. Taylor did a great job sticking with the play, getting the turnover and taking it on herself. That’s the kind of effort we needed from everyone on the field. Taylor got us started on the right foot.”
The second goal came on a breakaway by Coons in the 12-minute. She was able to beat the defense after taking a long pass up the middle and put it past the charging Sisco.
“We talked about that,” Fennessey said. “The ball was played back to Kayla Thornton, who sent a through ball to Bethany. We practice that. We were efficient in the way we did it and when you give Bethany goal scoring chances, she’s going to put it away.”
That’s how the half ended.
“It was a close game at the half,” Fennessey said. “That’s a bad lead. You’ve got to respect 2-0 because there is the possibility that if they score an early goal to start the second half, the momentum could change.”
While Borgia did not score, it had some highlights. The Lady Knights had their best shot in the second half with one being fired off the crossbar.
“Some people might measure their progress with the score of the game,” Kang said. “I like to measure our progress by the quality of play in the game. I felt we were able to show some periods of the game where we could possess the ball. We didn’t show that in our first meeting at all. I think we showed improvement in our ability to keep the ball over the course of the season and it showed today. Our score was better the second time around. I actually was more pleased with the improvement in the quality of possession.”
But Union controlled the game by that time.
In the 48th minute, Clark scored on a header, the first of two Union set-piece goals.
“It was big when Clark got that goal,” Fennessey said. “We were able to keep that pressure on them and keep going the right way.”
Clark made it 4-0 on a shot in the 54th minute, placing her shot high into the Borgia goal.
The final goal came in the 63rd minute as Coons headed the ball into the net off a set-piece play.
“We’re going to live and die with the balls we play out to the wings and the chances we get across the front of the net,” Fennessey said. “We did a really good job at it tonight. It just wasn’t one player or one side which did it. We did a good job of using both sides of the field and getting the ball to the middle of the field.”
Kang said Union took advantage on the set-piece plays.
“They did a really nice job on their set plays. They were really aggressive to the ball and they were rewarded quite a bit.”
Lakebrink ended with the shutout.
“You can’t say enough about our defense and how they preserved the shutout,” Fennessey said. “Alicia Brueggemann played a heck of a game and Lakebrink came up big when she was needed.”
Borgia has four players graduate from this team. Sisco, Jenna Hellebusch, Addy Brinkmann and Madison Wehking played their final high school match Wednesday.
“They were great to have all season,” Kang said. “They are great players and great people. It’s been a privilege to have them on the team this year.”
The game between Union and Borgia marked the fourth year in a row the two sides had met in the district tournament and third year in a row they had played for a championship.
• In 2012, Union defeated Borgia in overtime to win the Class 2 District 7 event at Sullivan, 2-1.
• In 2011, Borgia posted a 2-0 victory at St. Clair to advance from Class 2 District 7.
In 2010, the teams were in a much larger district, but still played each other.
• In 2010, Union beat Borgia in the Class 2 District 2 semifinals at Hillsboro, 1-0. Union lost to St. Louis Notre Dame in the title match, 4-1.