Interviews by Chet Piotrowski • Text by Joe Gisondi
Senior goalkeeper Alex Dow spoke emphatically, but with a raspy voice, on Thursday evening after having made several key saves and relentlessly screaming directions to his teammates during Charleston’s 4-2 victory over Mattoon in the Red & Gold boys soccer tournament.
Dow was clearly both worn and elated after the Trojans had earned their first win over their cross-county rivals in six years.
“The curse,” he said, “is broken.”
The keeper added: “We wanted this win.”
CHS coach Zack Stranz, meanwhile, was almost unable to contain his excitement at the end of the game.
“I think I jumped about four feet, he said. “Man. I knew there was a chance we could do it. But Mattoon always finds a way to win. Ghere’s a great coach. He knows how to get the job done. So for us to go out and do that against them, that was really awesome.”
Charleston and Mattoon traded goals for a 1-1 tie at halftime. Grant Kattenbraker scored on a header on an assist from Kyle Ross before Mattoon midfielder Jace Gardner took a cross and knocked a shot low into the left side of the net.
The team exchanged two more goals in the second half – Kattenbraker posted his second goal three minutes into the second half followed by Andy Karpus’s score 17 minutes later. A minute earlier, Dow had stopped a second breakaway attempt.
Max Weber put CHS ahead 3-2 on a goal with seven minutes remaining.
Four minutes later, Jay Buchter added an insurance goal, a floater from about 30 yards out off a free kick that made it 4-2. Stranz was surprised at first that the freshman was lined up for the kick, but then decided to let it roll.
“If I had a choice, I would have put one of my upperclassmen in there,” Stranz said. “When I saw him take it, though, I said, ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s see what happens.’”
Ghere was displeased by his team’s inability to convert corners, free kicks or two breakaways.
“We didn’t take advantage of what they gave us,” Ghere said. “Two chances for breakaways that we didn’t convert. You let them hang around. They (CHS) wanted to win. They battled. They competed. It’s been a while since they’ve beaten us. They took pride in it today, and they deserved it. They outplayed us.”
Stranz says Dow’s first-half save on a penalty kick might have been the biggest play of the night. With about 21 minutes left in the first half, Dow slid to his right to stop Gardner’s low shot.
“The second the penalty kick was called, you kind of saw, even from the bench, the whole team drop. We were like, ‘here we go again.’ And if that (shot) would have went in, I feel like our momentum – we might have felt defeated. Once he stopped that, I heard about ten people say, ‘I love you Alex.’”
Olney is in first place headed into Saturday’s games of this round-robin tournament, but it must still face both Mattoon and Charleston.
Red & Gold standings
10 a.m. – Charleston vs Effingham
11:45 a.m. – Mattoon vs Olney
1:30 p.m. – Effingham vs Arthur-Okaw Christian
3:15 p.m. – Charleston vs Olney