Chieftains soccer beats Raiders in regional opener
THS 3, Immaculata 1
First half scoring
Logan Williams (TON), 29th minute
Second half scoring
Mark Hernandez (IMA), 47th minute
Ben Edmonds (TON), 72nd minute
Spencer Finkbiner (TON), 76th minute
Leavenworth When the Tonganoxie High soccer team defeated Leavenworth-Immaculata on Thursday, it guaranteed its seniors a win in their final regular season home game. The Chieftains defeated the Raiders again Tuesday, and this time, they gave themselves the chance to play at home at least one more time.
Ninth-seeded THS broke open a tie game with two goals in the final 10 minutes, propelling itself to a 3-1 win in a Class 4-1A regional semifinal on No. 4 Immaculata's home field. THS won by just two goals, but with the exception of a brief period in the first half, it kept the ball on the Raiders' side of the field for nearly the entire game.
Despite playing on a wet field and battling thick fog for the duration of the contest, THS (7-10) did a better job possessing the ball than it did in its 6-2 win against the Raiders last week. The Chieftains had several scoring opportunities early, but had numerous shots sail wide of the net or over the crossbar.
They finally broke through when Logan Williams punched one in with about 11 minutes left until halftime. Evan Stilgenbauer had a shot bounce off the left post and Garrett Martin deflected the ball to Williams, drawing goalkeeper Phillip Hernandez out of the net. Williams took advantage, tapping the ball in to give THS a 1-0 lead.
The Raiders (10-6-1) got a chance to tie about four minutes later, but a shot by Mark Hernandez sailed high. Williams and Stilgenbauer also came up too strong on shot attempts in the closing minutes, and Hernandez got one more shot before the break. He drew keeper Alex Kroll out of the net and fired the ball toward the net, but Kyle Caldwell cleared the ball before it crossed the line, allowing the Chieftains to take their one-goal lead into intermission.
Hernandez, who scored both Immaculata goals in Thursday's meeting, got another chance early in the second half, and he was able to cash in. Hernandez beat the defense and got the ball just inside the right post, tying the game about seven minutes into the period.
"I would have been more surprised by him not scoring," coach Brian Kroll said of Hernandez. "He's just that good of a player."
THS dominated possession for the remainder of the half and gave itself multiple scoring chances, but continued to have trouble putting the ball through the posts. Ben Edmonds ended that stretch when he scored on a pass from Stilgenbauer to put the Chieftains back in front with about eight minutes remaining.
Spencer Finkbiner gave the Chieftains some breathing room with his first varsity goal about four minutes later, immediately following a near-miss by Alec Richert.
"The control was phenomenal," Brian Kroll said. "Our touch was really good. We were just playing our positions and we knew what our responsibilities were tonight."
With the win, the Chieftains — winners in four of their last five games — advance to the regional finals for the fifth season in a row. They can win their third consecutive regional title Friday when they host No. 10 Bishop Ward (7-9) for a 6 p.m. game at Chieftain Park. The Cyclones reached the finals with a 4-3 overtime win Tuesday at Sumner Academy.
Friday's game will serve as a rubber match, as the teams split a pair of regular-season meetings. Ward won a 2-1 meeting in overtime Oct. 10 on its home field, then THS returned the favor with a 2-1 win a week later in Tonganoxie.
"It's going to mostly come down to who's going to want it the most and who's going to be able to dig the deepest to get it," Brian Kroll said. "I think we're two very evenly-matched teams. As far as our movement, control and all that other stuff, I think we're a more potent team, but anything is possible."