Helias soccer back in state playoffs

The Helias Crusaders were hungry to get back into the state soccer playoffs.

It didn’t matter if the No. 2 team in the state stood in their way.

“You could tell in their eyes they were ready to play,” Helias coach Chuck Register said as the Crusaders used a 1-0 victory in the Class 2 District 10 title game against the Rolla Bulldogs to claim a spot in tonight’s Class 2 sectional at Union.

“It was our best game of the year.”

The Crusaders (18-5) climbed as high in the state rankings as No. 6 during the season before coming in at No. 10 in the final poll before the postseason. Helias will bring a seven-game winning streak into tonight’s contest in which the Crusaders have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 16-3.

“Sometimes it takes almost an entire season to get everybody on the same page and I think that’s what’s happened for us,” Register said. “We’re fine-tuning a few things right now.”

Union (16-10) advanced to today’s 6 p.m. contest by winning the District 9 crown. The Wildcats blanked Warrenton 3-0 in the semifinals before getting past top-seeded Borgia 3-2 in penalty kicks in the final.

It’s the third district title in the history of the Union program, along with wins in 2001 and 2010.

The Wildcats have a strong 1-2 scoring punch in seniors Nick Schumaker (19 goals, four assists) and Andrei Ciot (14, 10). Union is averaging about 2.5 goals a game.

Defensively, the Wildcats are giving up 1.5 goals per contest. Trey Fink, a senior, has been in net for all of Union’s victories this season.

For the Crusaders, defense has played a big role in their recent winning ways. That is no more evident than in the district title win against Rolla, where Blake Steinmetz of the Crusaders was assigned the task of shadowing Rolla all-state senior forward Aaron Froehlich all over the field.

“He got maybe two or three weak shots on goal,” Register said. “Blake did a heck of a job on him and when he needed it, he got some help from the other guys.”

Helias and Union have played three common opponents — Borgia, Washington and Fatima. Helias beat Borgia (2-0), while Union split with the Knights, losing 2-0 in the regular season before winning in the district final. Both beat Washington (Helias 2-0, Union 4-1) and both lost to Fatima (Helias 2-1, Union 5-1).

Helias’ strength of schedule may play a role tonight. The Crusaders faced six eventual district champions in the regular season.

“Playing as tough competition as we can has gotten us ready for the postseason,” Register said. “We’ve learned from playing very good teams.”

With a win, Helias would host either Carthage (21-5) or Willard (14-7) in the quarterfinals Saturday at the 179 Soccer Park.

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