Abbey Reddig leaps onto Teegan VanGunst celebrating the game\'s first goal.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
For soccer fans it was another exciting matchup between Whitewater and the Chiefs from McIntosh. For the Lady Wildcats it was a little bit of payback. Whitewater claimed the region championship with 2-0 victory Tuesday night, exorcising some demons from last season.
The payback tastes so good because it was the McIntosh girls that beat Whitewater for both the region title and the state championship last season. "It was a little sweet revenge," said Whitewater coach Randy Hayes. "It was a big step. The girls have got a great attitude. They're determined to do everything they can do on the field to win."
As with seemingly every matchup between these two elite teams, it was a tense, emotional battle from beginning to end. "We knew it was going to be a tough game," Hayes said. "The girls played very well. They kept their composure. We know we've got to be prepared to take on whatever they throw at us."
The teams played to a stalemate in the first half. Both squads had near misses, but could not quite capitalize. McIntosh keeper Kaitlin Deitrick turned away a number of big shots. On one push Teegan VanGunst had a header bounce off the crossbar that was then corralled by Kayla Smith for a sharp shot, but Deitrick was on the spot. Wildcat keeper Christa Strickland had a big save of her own, chasing down a loose ball and holding on despite vicious contact.
Whitewater finally broke through halfway through the second half. Teegan VanGunst did the honors, heading home a goal for a 1-0 lead.
Christa Strickland came through with arguably the play of the game, ending a huge scoring threat for the Chiefs. Gabby Seiler hauled in a perfect past, streaking past the Wildcat defense with a good look at the goal. Strickland turned her away with a breathtaking save.
"Christa always steps up," praised Hayes. "Being able to stop (Gabby) Seiler puts her way up there in my book. It was very, very big. A goal could've turned the tide of emotions."
Despite their best efforts, McIntosh would not be able to get a goal past Strickland on this night. Freshman Brook Colangelo iced the game, scoring with three minutes left on a goal just over the outstretched fingertips of the Chief keeper.
The 2-0 victory brought the region championship back to the Wildcats. They will open their push for a state title on Wednesday against Morrow. McIntosh will host Tri-Cities on Wednesday.