Sabers fall shy of state

Sabers fall shy of state

COLUMBIA — For James Johnson's money, Belleville Althoff is the best Class 1A girls' soccer team in Illinois.

So when Johnson's St. Thomas More outfit squared off with the Crusaders on Tuesday night in the Columbia Super-Sectional, he set up the Sabers in a "stay home and counterattack" scheme.

It wasn't enough.

Althoff won 3-0 and ended STM's campaign one win short of state.

"We weren't trying to leave much up to chance," Johnson said. "To win the game, we knew it was going to have to be 1-0 us or win in (penalty kicks)."

Althoff (19-3-4) struck first, though, a little more than five minutes before halftime on a strike from senior Jessica Hoffman.

Though the Sabers (21-5-1) attempted to regroup out of the break, they couldn't find a way past senior goalkeeper Rachel Monken, a Tulsa signee. Sophomore Liesl Whitener added a pair of second-half tallies as well.

Johnson will lose 12 players to graduation, but he admitted that blow hadn't sunk in yet.

"Our motto is, 'Leave the program better than you found it,'" he said, "and no one embodies that it as much as this group of seniors."