EFFINGHAM, ILL. – The Mt. Carmel soccer Aces went into the final minute of play in the St. Anthony Invitational not sure if they would bring home the championship trophy.
They were ahead of the host Bulldogs, 2-1, in the third game of the two-day tournament, and were in a strong position to finish tournament play with a 3-0 record and a tie with Teutopolis in the final standings. But, they needed to score one more time to snap the overall tie and win the title on goal differential.
Enter the sophomore tandem of Britton Heinrich and Rayce Loudermilk. Heinrich threaded a pass to Loudermilk, who found the back of the net in the final minute to boost Mt. Carmel’s lead to 3-1.
With that, the Aces did get to celebrate what is believed to be their first-ever championship in this annual season-opening event.
Aces coach Ed Berberich, as much as he was pleased at the hardware grab, said the final game against St.Anthony “was pretty impressive because that was the toughest of the three teams we faced, but that was also the best we looked in the tournament.
The young Aces, with only one senior returnee from last year’s 10-7 unit, “found a good balance of possession and attack, which can be a hard thing to do sometimes,” Berberich said. “We also consistently came up with better ideas in the attacking third (of the field) than we had in the earlier matches, not relying so much on longer shots or long crosses into the box.”
Against At. Anthony, the Aces overcame an early 1-0 deficit. Ethan Belt evened the score with a goal in the 22nd minute, coming on a Heinrich assist. It was Heinrich himself who got into the scoring column before halftime, scoring what proved to be the winning goal on a penalty kick, making it 2-1 at the break.
Mt. Carmel (3-0) opened tournament play on Thursday with a 4-0 victory. Beau Stipp scored two goals in the win, with Loudermilk and Belt tallying once each.
On Saturday, the Aces opened play with a 5-1 win over Centralia Christ Our Rock Lutheran. Stipp and Heinrich each scored twice, with Loudermilk hitting once. CORL’s only goal came on a penalty kick midway through the second half.
Mt. Carmel was impressive on defense as well, and the statistics sheet showed it. Goalkeeper Tye Kanipe faced only 11 shots on goal all weekend. The offense, meanwhile, took 57 shots.
“As well as we played this weekend, it’s early in the season so there’s still a lot to work on,” Berberich said. “Hopefully we build on what we’ve shown here and keep improving as the games start getting tougher moving into the season. “
The Aces play at Harrisburg on Thursday.