Winning regional titles has become an expectation for the Alleman girls' soccer team under ninth-year coach Randy Bollman. But that didn't damper Friday night's celebration after the Pioneers' 6-1 win over Princeton in the 1A Alleman Regional championship at Greg McKenzie Field.
The regional plaque is Alleman's sixth in the last seven years.
"The expectation we've set for our program is that we've got to win regional titles," said Bollman. "I think it was a bit of a challenge early on for this group, but I think they've come together and they're starting to play extremely well now. I think that's going to carry on to sectionals and hopefully we can move on a lot further."
Sophomore Pioneer Kendall Wendt scored four goals in the victory, benefiting from crisp pass connections setting up her scores. She said Ella DeSmet had a "perfect" cross on one of those goals.
Wendt's third score came on a penalty kick in the 70th minute. Alleman scored four goals in the final 21 minutes and out-shot Princeton 17-5.
"I think we just worked together as a team really well," Wendt said. "We have a lot of younger players, and they've really stepped up to the plate and worked really hard. And I'm really proud of them."
Alleman (9-6-2) had a couple close calls early on but kept Princeton (12-8-1) off the board until the 72nd minute when leading 4-0. In a scoreless game, Princeton had a shot off the Alleman crossbar, and Pioneer senior keeper Billi Fleck helped diffuse another early chance with Princeton players crowding the goal.
The game was scoreless until Wendt scored her first goal in the 30th minute. One minute later, freshman Pioneer Kate Mayerhofer struck a ball hard enough to hit through the Princeton keeper's hands and into the goal.
Alleman also got a goal from Julia DeSmet in the final minute. Princeton's lone goal came from senior Kiley Schenck.
Senior team captain and defender Anna Darrow said coming out with intensity was key in keeping Princeton off the board early on. Strong ball control building the commanding lead helped break the Lady Tigers' will in the second half.
"We played quick, fast passes and it started to wear them out," Darrow said. "We don't have a lot of girls, but we really give it our all and really went in with our hearts."
Princeton coach David Gray said the game was even throughout the first 25 minutes, with both teams getting chances.
"Then when they scored, we kind of lost confidence and stopped trying to possess the ball. We kind of got panicky and started kicking the ball away, kicking it to them and giving them the ball cheaply and easily instead of focusing and playing good soccer," Gray said. "They were able to take advantage and score off of those mistakes."
Alleman advances to play No. 1 seed Pleasant Plains/New Berlin in Tuesday's 1A Bloomington Central Sectional semifinal at 6:30 p.m.
"We just need to keep practicing and working hard and having high intensity," Wendt said, "as soon as the whistle blows, and to the very end."
Alleman ran into eventual state champion Quincy Notre Dame in last year's sectional semifinal, but focusing on the game at hand is key for these Pioneers.
"We've just got to worry about each game that comes up," Bollman said. "We don't have to worry about what we did previously. Come out and play as hard as we can and do what we know we can do. And we'll be fine."