Fresh off a district soccer championship, the De Smet Spartans move on and will play Pattonville in the sectional round.
The Spartans (14-4-1) entertain the 17-8 Pirates at 6 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 13). The two teams met most recently last fall in a district championship game. De Smet won that match 1-0 and went on to finish second overall in Class 4.
The winner Tuesday advances to the quarterfinals Saturday. Lying ahead is the winner will be the survivor of the Fort Zumwalt West-Holt game.
Coach Josh Klein knows what De Smet needs to do to advance to the quarterfinals.
“Our guys must attack as a group of 11 and defend as a group of 11,” Klein said. “Plain and simple.”
The Spartans have been playing well lately. De Smet ended the regular season with a five-game winning streak.
“When you look at what happened before that winning streak, we had a four-game losing streak,” Klein said. “To see them recover the way they did sent a message to the coaches and community that these guys were peaking at the right time.”
What was to blame for the four-game losing streak?
“Injuries and Illnesses. Lots of them,” Klein said. “We lost a key defender (Jacob Roschke) at the start of that streak and that hurt us both tactically and mentally. It took a lot of rallying together after that to get this team back on track.”
De Smet met St. Louis University High in the District 5 semifinal. The Spartans scored a 3-2 victory.
“(A) Very good showing,” Klein said. “(It’s) Super tough to beat a team three times, especially one like SLUH, a MCC (Metro Catholic Conference) rival, and a team that was having a very good season. That game had a playoff atmosphere. It was a shame that had to be a district semifinal.
“I think the difference was having 10 guys on last year’s state team who remembered the feeling of losing in the final. They didn’t want to experience that again, especially that early.”
The win set up a district championship match with Chaminade. The MCC champs has scored a 2-1 win over De Smet earlier in season.
“That was a PK (penalty kick) loss. A good game by two good teams,” Klein said. “Prep for that game was different than SLUH. The game versus Chaminade had more of a redemption theme. You don’t need to give them much of a pep talk after what happened last time.”
Klein lamented the fact two good teams playing in the district final mean one would have to go home.
“Gosh no,” Klein said about wanting to play Chaminade. “It’s a shame that two of the three of us had to end our seasons so short.”
Klein said the Spartans were expecting a “physical” with “high speed and lots of emotion.”
De Smet scored a 2-1 win. The win showed Klein how tough his team is.
“Playing a man down for the last 21 minutes against a team like Chaminade was our most challenging feat so far this season,” Klein said. “We pulled it off because of our execution on restarts and grit on defense.”
Junior midfielder Carson Wilhelm scored first goal. It came 67 seconds into the game.
“Chaminade had ball 30 yards out. Carson has scored from there in the past. We gave him the green light,” Klein said. “He hit a well struck ball that sailed over the wall on a line drive, upper 90. One of the best goals I’ve seen in my career as head coach.”
Scoring that early was important for the Spartans, Klein said.
“It’s huge. After that, they didn’t need any encouraging words from the sidelines for a while,” Klein said. “I actually felt like a fan for a short time.”
The second goal came from senior midfielder Henry Lawlor. He scored with 16 minutes left in the first half.
“We had a throw-in deep in their end,” Klein said. “Junior Brendan Schoemehl has a long throw-in, so it was a designed play that was executed perfectly.’
Klein knew a 2-0 lead at halftime may not be enough against a talented team like the Red Devils.
“Good, but not satisfied,” Klein said about how he felt with the lead. “Nothing would completely satisfy me unless the game was actually over and we were ahead. This game is too funny. I’ve seen too many wild things happen in the closing seconds of game. You have to play a full 80 minutes, especially in the playoffs.”
Chaminade did score. It was early in the second half.
“We wanted to come out quick, especially since we were backed into our own end late in the first,” Klein said. “Coming out quick would have sent a message that we’re not going to sit in and defend for 40 minutes. Chaminade’s goal was a nice goal. Good build up. A few of our guys missed their assignments and Chaminade took advantage.”
However, the Spartans held on and won their second consecutive district championship. The Spartans were “ecstatic,” Klein said.
“It was a gritty win with a mixture of revenge and pride thrown in,” Klein said.
Lawlor and defenders Nick Grewe and Jacob Roschke “really stood out. Their leadership and relentless pressure won this game for us,” Klein said.