MARION – Tyson Stoecklin’s goal late in the first half was the only goal Marion would need to eliminate Anna-Jonesboro, 1-0, and win its second straight regional title at the Marion 2A boys soccer regional Saturday.
“I told the seniors that this was their last game at Wildcat Stadium, and if they wanted to go out on top, we needed to go out and win this or you could end your career here and now,” said Marion coach Rob Underwood. “I told my juniors and my lone sophomore that they had to pick it up for them. They took it to heart and played their hearts out.”
Marion (13-9-2) advances to the Columbia 2A Sectional and will face Troy Triad (12-13-1) Wednesday at 6 p.m. Triad knocked off undefeated Columbia, 4-2, in penalty kicks to win the Mascoutah Regional.
“We had tied them early on in the season twice, 2-2, in weeks two and three, so we were not playing for a tie today because we wanted the win bad,” Underwood said. “I wrote on the board in the locker room before the game, "7-0-1"— that was our record at home — and one of our goals was to go undefeated at home. So we went undefeated, and the seniors leave on a high note. And now we head to Columbia and see how we do up there.”
Stoecklin scored his 24th goal of the season with 2:41 remaining in the first half, beating Anna-Jonesboro goalkeeper Jake Parr into the upper left corner of the net.
“Stoecklin’s been our guy all season long, so for him to come up big in the championship game was definitely huge,” Underwood said.
Anna-Jonesboro outshot Marion 2-1 in the second half, with its best chances coming from John Russell —10 minutes in on a free kick and with 5:45 remaining on a long shot — but Camden Dodds made both saves.
“It was a good game,” said Anna-Jonesboro coach Mark Boomer. “Both teams were about equal and it was 50-50 who was going to win.”
Marion had the early edge in play with three scoring chances in the first 10 minutes. Three minutes, in Jacob Murphy’s shot from the right side was just wide left. Less than three minutes later, Kameron Dover took a free kick from the left side of the goal and passed to Stoecklin in the middle, but his header was wide left.
Dover and Stoecklin teamed up again, with Stoecklin having an open shot in front of Parr, but the senior made the save on his hard shot at the 10 minute mark.
Anna-Jonesboro (13-6-3) put pressure on Dodds, but never got a clean shot off until Russell got open in front of the net. Dodds made the save, but couldn’t control the rebound.
Jaryt Tripp picked up the ball and took a shot that was deflected by the defense right back to him, and this time, he buried the ball in the right side of the net with 25:01 left in the first half. However, the goal was disallowed on an off-sides call.
“I didn’t think I was off-sides, but there were a lot of people bunched up around there and that was the call, and you have to go with the call,” Tripp said.
Marion had a good scoring chance two and a half minutes later, but Parr made a sliding save.
Tripp almost scored his second goal three minutes later, but his header went wide left. Anna-Jonesboro responded by Tripp setting up Blake Pena, but his shot from the left side was wide right.
With 1:17 remaining in the half, Josh Szidik just missed Stoecklin in the middle. Anna-Jonesboro also missed a good scoring opportunity off a free kick 48 yards out with 19.5 seconds remaining, but Nicholas Bussey’s shot was just wide left.