GENEVA – She’s a talented guard in basketball, it’s no surprise that fast-break soccer agrees with Geneva senior Michaela Loebel.
Loebel excelled in a match with ample end-to-end action Friday night at Burgess Field as the Geneva girls soccer team topped St. Charles East, 3-1.
“That was very fun,” Loebel said. “That’s probably the best game of soccer to have is when it’s back and forth, it’s not slow at all, it’s just fast. You don’t have time to think about it. You just react.”
Vikings coach Megan Owens loved what she saw as her Vikings (12-4-2, 5-1 Upstate Eight Conference River) prevented St. Charles East from tying St. Charles North for the conference championship.
“I think this was our strongest game offensively of the season,” Owens said. “Michaela Loebel played amazing. I think she’s finally getting back to the point where she was before she hurt her knee. She played a terrific game.
“Sam Hauser did a great job second half in net. Defensively, we were solid. We played solid throughout. It’s awesome to see as a coach with the postseason approaching.”
East (12-4-3, 4-1-1 UEC River) had a lot riding on the match, prompting coach Paul Jennison to call the Saints’ response to Friday’s loss “a big, defining moment of how our season’s going to go.”
“We can’t beat ourselves up too much – the bottom line is in the big game, you’ve got to bring it,” Jennison said. “End of discussion, you’ve got to bring your best game, and unfortunately we weren’t quite there tonight.”
East started in attack mode but failed to cash in, and the momentum gradually flipped the Vikings’ way.
Loebel, a Nebraska recruit, opened the scoring with 15:06 to play in the first half by outworking an East defender for a shooting angle and firing one past goalkeeper Kendra Sheehan from about 15 yards out off a Mary Landry assist.
“It’s just one of those things where I can’t think about it – when I think about it, that’s when I mess up,” Loebel said. “I didn’t have time to think, I just had time to react, so I think that’s why it was a successful goal.”
The score remained 1-0 at halftime, but Geneva added a second goal midway through the second half as Landry ended a fierce Geneva push by tapping one in off a Courtney Lardas assist. Lardas was proud of the amount of support the Vikings had on the attack to create the goal.
“I just looked to cross the ball,” Lardas said. “We’ve been working a lot in practice at finishing the crosses, and I’m just glad we got on it. … I thought everyone ran up which is really good because in the past we wouldn’t have anyone there so I think we’re improving as the season goes on with that.”
East closed within 2-1 with 14:07 to play in the second half as Loebel’s future college teammate – Amanda Hilton – scored off a Julia Peterson assist.
East, needing a win, not a draw, to tie for the conference title, pushed forward emphatically in the late stages, creating a few prime chances for the counter-attacking Vikings down the stretch.
The Vikings cashed in with 5:46 to go as Loebel dribbled toward the end line, then cut it back in before delivering a smooth feed to the wide-open Landry, who banged in her second goal of the night for the final margin.
Hauser (10 saves) turned in her second strong showing against East this season; the Vikings blanked the Saints, 1-0, last month at the Rose Augsburg Drach Invitational.
The Friday night match – a rarity – drew a nice crowd to Burgess Field, and the Vikings rose to the occasion by putting on quite a show to finish second place in the UEC River.
“I’m just tremendously proud of my kids,” Owens said. “They stepped up. There was a lot going on this week. With senior night and stuff it would have been easy for them to check out because we didn’t have as much riding on this game as East, so I was just very proud of how we played.”