By ALEX CARSON
University braved the elements, an hour-long rain delay, and resilient opposition Saturday night to defeat Western Boone, 3-2, bringing home the program’s first sectional championship and completing a perfect day for Blazers soccer.
There was a stern wind at kickoff in Sheridan (host of Class 1A Sectional 36), and it was one the Trailblazers (12-4-1) had to play into during the opening half. But that didn’t faze University, who opened the scoring 13:20 into the game through the play of its two leading scorers. Junior midfielder Halle Von Ah fired a shot on target that was saved, but the Western Boone goalkeeper couldn’t control the rebound — and sophomore forward Tessa Hudson was there to fire home, staking the Trailblazers to an early 1-0 lead.
Hudson almost doubled the scoreline mere seconds later, but it was the Stars (5-10), who entered the game winners of five of six, who did find the back of the net shortly thereafter, with junior forward Maddison Jones beating Trailblazers sophomore goalkeeper Lilly Fair to level the score, 1-1.
But while the action on the field was back-and-forth, a storm was brewing to the west — and with 5:16 left in the first half, the match was suspended, with lightning reported in the area. After an hour-long delay, the teams retook the field in a steady rain, and University soon got on the front foot.
When the Trailblazers and Stars played last month, a 3-1 Western Boone win, University was without two key players: junior twins Lily and Lucy Snyder. Those two players would ultimately win the Blazers the match.
With just under two minutes left in the first half, Lucy — one of the Blazers’ center backs — stood over a seemingly innocuous free kick around 50 yards out from the goal. She played it into the box, where it passed through untouched and into the back of the net, giving University back the lead just before halftime.
Jones got behind the University back line 10 minutes into the second half and made the Trailblazers pay, equalizing at 2-2, but University didn’t take too long to restore its lead. Von Ah, who claimed the assist on the opener, stood over a free kick from the edge of the area — and midfielder Lily Snyder rose to meet it, firing in a header from close range to put University 3-2 ahead with 26 minutes to play.
The Trailblazers endured pressure, and Fair came up big with a couple key saves to keep her team in the lead, but ended the match on the front foot, playing out a 3-2 win for the program’s first sectional championship.
Saturday was a long time coming for University’s soccer programs, and especially for this one: head coach Maddy MacAllister, and assistants Rory Priest, Lilly Snodgrass and Ariana Katz, all played soccer for, and graduated from, University, something that meant a lot to MacAllister.
“I went to University, they have a soccer program because I wanted a soccer program and so we kind of made it happen,” MacAllister said. “So this has been 16 years in the making, and it’s amazing to share this with both the boys and girls programs today. And my whole coaching staff has played soccer at University, so it makes it even better.”
University started Saturday with a four-plus-year sectional drought. It ended the day taking home two titles in a few hours.
The Trailblazers, who only start one senior, defender/forward Shelby Wood, advance to the second weekend of play for the first time, where they’ll face No. 7 Lafayette Central Catholic at Northwestern. The Knights downed No. 10 Rossville, 1-0, to win Sectional 38 on Saturday night.
By ALEX CARSON