MATTOON — As the last few seconds fell from the clock, Carbondale’s Sage Nelson sent a pass into traffic in front of the Mattoon goal. Teammate Aisha Ruperto got a piece of it, but Green Wave goaltender Hallie Niemerg fielded the ball cleanly with one second on the clock.
Niemerg’s final save preserved a 2-1 Mattoon victory in the championship game of the Mattoon Class 2A Regional. Carbondale’s season ends at 8-18 while the Green Wave advances to the Triad Sectional next week.
After coming up empty despite several good scoring chances in the first half, Carbondale broke on top 1-0 at 30:15 of the second half. Anna Schurz’s strong run set up a corner kick. Schurz lofted a twisting shot that Niemerg mis-timed.
She got her hands on the ball, but it bounced to Sage Nelson who tapped it in.
The Carbondale lead was short lived as Mattoon’s Faith Niebruegge worked her way past a pair of Terriers, stopped on dime and rifled the ball into the lower right hand corner.
Mattoon took the lead for good at the 19:53 mark when Kyah Eastin earned a penalty kick at the edge of the box. Eastin had the ball at point blank range when she was knocked off her feet by Carbondale goal keeper Katee Schwartz.
Schwartz got a piece of Eastin’s kick, but it trickled into the lower right hand corner.
The Terriers were able to keep the ball in the Mattoon end of the field for the final 20 minutes, but didn’t generate many quality scoring chances until the final seconds.
“I think we went into panic mode a little bit,” said Carbondale coach Ortez Davis. “We felt like we were confident in what we should have been able to do. I think when they stunned us, got on the board and took the lead, we kind of went away from our game. So, we lost all our flow.
“At this level, those mistakes can keep you from winning a regional title.”
However, the game may have swung on Carbondale failing to capitalize on first-half opportunities.
Schurz and Nelson blasted shots off the crossbar in the first half. And, late in the half Ruperto put a shot on goal that Niemerg was able to tip over the top of the net.
“We had our chances, so it’s kind of like self-inflicted we didn’t come out on top,” Davis said. “We knew what our strengths were and what we needed to do to execute. After we couldn’t get those early chances I feel like we got comfortable with trying to drive balls in. When you have a keeper that tall, you have to at least be creative with trying to find opportunities.”