PEKIN — Moline’s collective intensity was loud and clear from the very start of Wednesday’s Class 3A Pekin Regional semifinal game at the Coal Miners’ Park soccer field.
The fifth-seeded Maroons matched a vocal effort physically throughout a mostly one-sided 3-0 victory over third-seeded United Township. Moline (11-7-3) advances to face second-seeded Minooka (14-9-1) back here in Saturday’s regional final at 3 p.m.
Moline's Blake Bastian converted a penalty kick just four minutes into the contest after a Maroon was shoved from behind in the box. Bastian fired his shot into the right side of the net for what turned out to be all the scoring needed in his team’s shutout.
Moline bested its conference rival after 1-0 defeats in both the regular season and last year’s regional. UT also entered on a four-game win streak.
“Coming into this game, we were super hyped up,” Bastian said. “Coming in as the underdogs, we really wanted to bring it to them in the first five, 10 minutes. And that’s what we did.”
Bastian said his team played more passively in the regular season defeat. That was not the case on Wednesday, with freshman Saheed Jah scoring off a Bastian feed in the 52nd minute and Jose Ruiz tacking on another goal in that same minute (Bryson Spriet assist).
The early goal also fed into the team’s intensity. UT (14-8-1) only had two shots as Moline’s Carson Klavohn was in net for the shutout.
“It’s always hard when you come into your first playoff game and you have to face your conference rival, especially when we have to travel 1.5-two hours to come down here,” Moline coach Rick Sanchez said. “We felt very confident. I thought we played well the first game around the first 60-70 minutes. … The approach was the same. Be assertive, be aggressive, attack the box, attack the back line and hope we can create some opportunities. And that’s what happened.”
UT coach Phil Weaver said Moline shot out ready to go while his team was often static.
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“Certainly not enough energy to match the levels of the Moline team,” Weaver said. “Combine that with sloppiness in your distribution, which was a real big factor for us tonight.”
UT has 11 seniors to replace from his roster. He highlighted the efforts of senior Tanner Viren on defense Wednesday.
“He’s full of guts and he never gives up,” Weaver said.
Moline advanced to play for its first regional title since 2015.
“We’ve got to come out and play aggressive and leave nothing to question,” Sanchez said of Saturday’s matchup. “We’ve got to play with some passion and some heart and some intensity and do the best we can and hopefully get a one-goal lead, and take it from there.”
Rock Island 6, Morris 1: It took a few minutes to gauge the playing surface at Ottawa High School, but once they figured it out the Rock Island Rocks were off and running.
The top-seeded Rocks (13-1-3) blew past Morris 6-1 in the semifinals of the Class 2A Ottawa Regional on Wednesday.
Osvaldo Perez put the Rocks on top in the opening minute, and Peter Kimba and Jordan Rice made it 3-0 just past the midway point of the first half.
Msengi Landry scored early in the second and Migambi Athana scored twice in a three-minute span to make it 6-0.
Morris got on the board in the final minute when a Rocky defender headed the ball into the net.
The Rocks, on a 14-game undefeated streak, will play the host Ottawa, a 6-2 winner over Sterling, on Saturday at 3 p.m. with the Rocks looking for their second regional title.