LEBANON – Before the penalty kick round began in the Class 1A Althoff Sectional championship match between the Marquette Explorers and Columbia Eagles on Saturday at McKendree University, the referees had to flip a coin to decide which team will kick first.
Marquette senior captain Adrianna Schindler picked tails. After winning the coin flip, Schindler decided her team will kick second.
It turned out to be a good decision for Schindler and the Explorers.
“It paid off,” Schindler said.
Marquette won its sixth straight sectional championship after beating Columbia 5-4 in penalty kicks. The Explorers improved to 13-9-3 and will play Sacred Heart-Griffin in the Class 1A Super-Sectional game at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Illinois in Springfield.
Sacred Heart-Griffin beat Quincy Notre Dame 5-0 in the Sacred Heart-Griffin Sectional title game on Friday.
“We have one more hard game to play and I think they can do it,” Marquette coach Steve Mitchell said. “We’ll rest up tomorrow and go through some strategy stuff on Monday and get back on grass.”
Marquette played on artificial turf during the sectional tournament.
“We’re not a turf team,” Mitchell said. “We don’t get to practice on this stuff. Every team that is left (in the postseason) is a turf team, so we’re only the grass team and the super-sectional is on grass. Maybe we’ll get a little bit of an advantage. We’ll see. We’re going to go at them and we’re going to go at them hard.”
The Explorers won their fourth sectional title under Mitchell. Mitchell took over coaching duties in 2013.
“A lot of coaches don’t have the luxury that I have with dominant players and good athletes,” Mitchell said. “I love being here at Marquette and they’re a great school. The kids are great and I enjoy it. We’ll go back to the drawing board on Monday and get ready for Tuesday and hopefully we can get another trip to state.”
The Explorers played their second straight match in penalty kicks. They beat Gibault 4-3 in PKs in the sectional semifinals on Wednesday. The match was scoreless after 100 minutes of soccer.
“It really takes a toll on you,” Hartrich said. “It’s nerve-wracking. My legs were shaking through the whole time.”
Hartrich is thrilled that she has played for a sectional championship team all four years.
“It’s a great feeling,” Hartrich said. “It’s awesome to be able to do that for our school every year. It makes us feel cool, too.”
Both Marquette and Columbia were tied at 1-1 after 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods. Both goals were scored in the second half.
Natalie Brown, one of two freshmen on the Marquette varsity roster, gave the Explorers a 1-0 lead with her fourth goal of the season with just 16 seconds into the second half.
Columbia junior Blair Wittenbrink tied it with her team-leading 16th goal of the season with 33 minutes left in the half.
Columbia kicked first in the penalty kick round. Junior captain Kalee Jackson gave her team a 1-0 lead.
Then, Hartrich tied it up after her kick hit the left of the goalpost and went in.
“It hit the inside of that post and it just went in,” Hartrich said. “I gave the crowd a little scare. It’s a good thing that went in.”
Both teams were tied at 4-4 in the penalty kick period when Marquette goalkeeper Lauren Fischer blocked a shot by Columbia junior Madelyn Juenger.
“She’s a phenomenal kid,” Mitchell said. “She’s only a sophomore. I get her for two more years, so it’s an all-around plus for me.”
Then, junior Elisa Senno gave the Explorers the victory by scoring her penalty-kick goal.
“She was talking to me before she went up there and she was telling me how nervous she was,” Hartrich said. “I told her to go up there and hit it and she did.”
Schindler, junior Clair Dalton and sophomore Lauren Walsh also scored penalty-kick goals for the Explorers, who won their fourth straight match.
Wittenbrink, Fae Harrell and Taylor Parks scored penalty-kick goals for the Eagles.
The Explorers advanced to the sectional tournament by beating Roxana 2-1 in the regional championship match last week at Gordon Moore Park. Marquette won its eighth straight regional title.
Now, Marquette is a victory away from making its fourth state tournament appearance and its first since 2013. Schindler and Hartrich were freshmen on the 2013 Marquette team that finished third at state.
“It will be a great feeling to go back there,” Schindler said.
The Eagles, who beat Mater Dei 2-1 in the semifinals on Wednesday, finished their season at 15-6-2. They advanced to the sectional round after winning their third straight regional championship last week. Columbia hasn’t won a sectional title since 2008.
“They gave us a really good game,” Schindler said. “They’re a good team. I give it to them.”
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