HERSCHER — Over the course of the high school soccer careers of the Coal City senior class, Herscher had beaten the Coalers by a combined score of 5-0 in postseason play. Each of the last three years, the locals had their season concluded after a loss to the Tigers.
It safe to say that Coal City made up for that lost time on Wednesday in a Herscher Class 1A regional semifinal.
Getting two goals each from Megan Jessen and Donjeta Shabani and one from fellow senior Annie Hawkinson, the locals cruised past the Tigers, winning by a score of 5-0.
“This was our No. 1 goal all year,” Coal City coach Mike Kostbade said. “We also wanted to finish over .500 in the (Interstate Eight) Conference. Now we have a chance to win some hardware.”
Jessen said that Coal City had the eye for the Tigers all season long.
“I’m very proud of this team,” she said. “Our one goal was to get into a regional championship and to beat Herscher and we did that.”
They did it by playing the aggressive predator that Herscher had played the last three years in securing 2-0, 2-0 and 1-0 wins against the Coalers in the postseason.
So, as you can imagine, getting that first goal on the board was a huge confidence boost for the locals.
“I thought it was a very important goal,” Jessen said. “When you go up 1-0 to can rattle the opposing team. Especially today when everyone thought it was going to be close.”
Jessen’s goal came in the eighth minute off an assist from Brynna Borgra. Four minutes later, Shabani then scored unassisted to make it a 2-0 contest.
“I told Don as I was running it out, ‘it’s your turn to get one in’,” Jessen said. “And she did.”
Shabani’s first goal came in the 12th minute and she then scored again off an assist from Alisha Johnson seven minutes later.
“We came in very fired up because we had never beaten them before,” Shabani said. “Even since I was a freshman, we’d never beaten them. It feels really good.”
By the 22nd minute Jessen hit the dagger with an assist from Shabani and the rout was officially on.
That would end up being all of the scoring for the first half. In the second half, Coal City was comfortable playing a defensive game in helping keeper Sarah Sirovy preserve the shutout. The remaining goal came from Hawkinson off a rebound of a shot by Johnson in the 58th minute.
“Our team has been on a shutout streak,” Shabani said. “The defense is doing a great job and that is big for us.”
Kostbade said that he felt comfortable at half that his team would be able to secure the win.
“The defense has been smart all year,” he said. “I told the girls to stay sharp at halftime and they did. The girls have a lot of pride in what they have accomplished this year.”
Sirovy made 12 saves on the day as Coal City improves to 10-3-1 on the season.
“(The shutout) makes me feel pretty good,” Jessen said. “They are prepared and have proven they can do it under pressure.”
Coal City will now play Reed-Custer on Friday back at Herscher for the championship.
The Coalers know they have to avoid a letdown after such an emotional win.
“As long as we play hard ad don’t give up, I think we should be good,” Shabani said.
“There’s nothing on our soccer board in the gym,” Jessen pointed out. “Nobody has ever won a regional before. To do that would make the whole senior year perfect.”
Kickoff is slated for 4:30 p.m.