The Westminster Christian Academy Wildcats are ready for their first high school sectional soccer game since 2009.
The Wildcats (12-10) host Ladue at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 4). It will be a rematch between the two teams.
Back on Oct. 17, Ladue (19-4-1) defeated the visiting Wildcats 3-1.
Coach Dan Legters said his Westminster squad wants to avenge that loss.
“They want to prove that the score with Ladue earlier in the year was not an accurate measure of their soccer,” Legters said. “They know they can beat them and will play with that determination.
“We lost because they capitalized on a couple of our defensive mistakes. Offensively, we moved the ball against them but the field was not in great conditions and that limited what we could do with our type of game. They are a quality team and have some great finishers, but the guys have the belief that on a different pitch, in different conditions, the result would have been different. It’s a belief that they had for the last two games and will certainly carry over to the sectional game.”
Certainly, Legters said the sectional matchup is winnable for his Wildcats. Westminster has nothing to lose going into the game so they can let it all out.
“In order for us to advance, we need our defense to continue doing what it has been doing — shutting down dangerous players and limiting quality chances for the other team,” Legters said. “Our midfielders and offense need to control the tempo and the pace and knock it around a little in order to create spaces that we can attack. We know it’s going to be another fight, but we’re the underdog. We lost to them earlier.
“People are thinking Ladue is the better team. That’s all the motivation we need right now and we can play soccer like it’s supposed to be played — without any pressure.”
The Wildcats scored their first district championship since 2009. Westminster was seeded fourth in the Class 3 District 6 tournament at Priory.
Westminster got by host Priory 2-1.
Priory defeated the Wildcats in their previous two meetings this season.
“The guys felt the last time they lost to Priory we were the better team so they had something to prove in the game,” Legters said. “We had a fantastic start, Sam Dunne scored 2 goals in the first four minutes of the game and early on we were up 2-0. We capitalized on some of their mistakes and then our defense denied them quality looks on goal.
“They played us well and moved the ball around but they couldn’t seem to find enough of an opening to make it a quality opportunity for them and that got them frustrated. Our defense had a great game against Priory. As the minutes ticked away you could sense their frustration because although they out-possessed us nothing happened.”
The Wildcats then faced Parkway West for the championship. The Wildcats scored a 2-1 victory in double overtime to thwart the Longhorns.
It was a great victory for the Wildcats’ program.
“This is a huge win for the guys,” Legters said. “They knew the pressure was off being the fourth seed. They were not expected or picked to win and they wanted to prove every other team wrong. So they played with something to prove but also without any pressure.”
The game with the Longhorns also was a rematch.
“We lost to Parkway West 1-0 but the guys remember it as a game that we should have won,” Legters said. “We squandered many opportunities and breakaways, and they get a goal with less than five minutes left to win it. That prepared them mentally because they knew we could beat them and they were hoping to get a second shot at them to prove it.”
Parkway West took a 1-0 lead. However, the Wildcats maintained their poise.
“The seniors took charge and did not panic on the field,” Legters said. “We made some adjustments and the team finally started getting some traction in the midfield and holding the ball and started creating chances. The second half was all about momentum but it was driven by the sheer desire and will of the seniors who did not lose faith or panicked even as the clock was winding down. They knew they were close so they kept going after it.”
Sam Dunne scored with seven minutes left in the game. Carl Simakoff slipped him a ball that the Parkway West defender didn’t manage to put a clean foot on. The rebound came to Dunne and a low shot beat the Longhorns’ keeper, who was coming off his line.
“We tied it. We had momentum and we were looking to win it in regulation,” Legters said. “We felt West was just trying to get to overtime to regroup so we kept the pressure on.”
The game was tied after regulation. It was only Westminster’s second overtime game of the year. The Wildcats’ last home game against Clayton ended with Westminster losing on penalty kicks.
Both teams had chances to score in the first overtime.
“We hit the crossbar once,” Legters said. “We created a few dangerous situations and West responded with their own threats, trying to get in behind or a long range shot.”
The game-winning goal was scored by sophomore defender Connor Dolan. The goal came about 90 seconds into the second overtime.
“Off the kick off, we put the ball in their end, got a throw in, got a shot on goal that the keeper made a great save on and gave us a corner,” Legters said. “Sean Appelbaum hit the corner into the heart of the box and it looked like the ball slipped through the hands of the keeper as David Kerckhoff jumped with him and the ball landed just as Connor was rushing in and all he had to do was make contact with a bouncing ball in the box and he hammered it away.”
It was Dolan’s first varsity career goal.
“The guys were euphoric. Many couldn’t see exactly how it happened, including me,” Legters said. “I didn’t even notice Connor stepping up for the corner but we saw the ball hit the net and that set off the celebration — Connor being mobbed by his teammates, guys on the bench running across the field to celebrate as well.
“It was an electric moment for about 30 seconds after the goal realizing that we had won our district when no one thought we could. It was very satisfying and gratifying to see their efforts pay off.”
This was Westminster’s first year in Class 3. It made little difference, Legters said.
“The classification hasn’t affected our program that much,” Legters said. “Our district stayed the same and we still play many of the quality opponents we had played before. Our goal is still to compete regardless of what class we are in.”