By Mike Monahan

DECATUR – Mattoon kept the ball on the Warrensburg-Latham/Maroa-Forsyth side nearly the entire game and, as a result, the offense was able to score five goals in the first half en route to a 6-0 win in the St. Teresa championship game. 

The last time Mattoon won this girls soccer tournament in 2005, many of the current juniors and seniors were just born.

Heck, some players had not played in any tournament since 2019.

Faith Niebrugge had her second straight hat trick, scoring three goals in the opening 32 minutes, 27 seconds. She finished with four goals overall and nine in the three tourney games. 

Lily Ghere scored the first goal 5:52 into game and assisted on two others off corner kicks in a game played in frigid temperatures. The strong winds made the temperature feel in the 20s.

“I thought our passes were really good today,” said Ghere. “We worked as a team rather than before when we had not really figured out the passing aspect of the game. Today, I think we did.”

Niebrugge put Mattoon ahead 2-0 at the 20:04 mark, adding another goal less than two minutes later.

Sophomore Marley Von Hoveln scored the fourth goal on a header off a corner throw in by Ghere. 

“I just saw the ball coming at my head and I just hit it,” said Von Hoveln of the goal 26:24 into the game. 

Niebrugge earned the hat trick seven minutes later after beating the goalie to the left corner that made it 5-0.

“We thought we matched up pretty well just from the scores,” said Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere. “The first half is as good as we have played in a long time. We move the ball extremely well. We passed the ball unselfishly and Faith (Niebrugge) just continued from where she left off from Thursday shooting from distance. Our set pieces were better today. We scored on two headers from corners. Our throws in were better. I thought every game this week was better and that is our goal.”

Niebrugge added the final goal of the game 13:58 into the second half. 

“It is really exciting to win this,” said Lily Ghere. “I have never been in a tournament because of COVID-19. We have not come out with this trophy in a long time and it is pretty great. I think we played really well and once we got ahead by a couple of goals their heads were down.”

Mattoon outscored its opponents 13-1, the only score allowed coming on an inadvertent own goal against Pleasant Plains/New Berlin. 

Anna Jurka said the key on defense was “just covering each other and making sure we were going to the ball and clearing it out whenever we got a chance. Getting back on defense whenever the ball was being cleared, and getting the shutout was important.”

Ghere was pleased with the defense. 

“Other teams have not put the ball in our goal,” said Ghere. “So you have got to like what we do on defense. Lily (Ghere) and Faith (Neibrugge) scored a lot of goals and, just like last year, we had different girls step up every day. Hopefully, we will get some other people to score. Bella Masse (freshman) had a lot of chances today, but just couldn’t find the net. She is going to come along and be a goal scorer for us by the end of the year.”

Mattoon travels to face Monticello on Monday, Warrensburg-Latham again on Tuesday and Olney on Thursday before playing host to Judah Christian in a varsity-only game at 4:30 p.m. April 1 on the new turf field. 

“We had not won the tournament in a long time,” said Ghere. “It was a good win and a great start to the season. We moved people around. We tried different positions today than we had played earlier in the week and I liked our lineup probably the best than what we have had so far.”