CHAMPAIGN — The girls' soccer program at St. Thomas More is gaining a following.
Winning the first regional championship in school history will do that.
The Sabers hoisted postseason hardware of the first time after Friday's 3-1 Class 1A win against Urbana Uni High on the UI campus. The victory sent the large contingent of St. Thomas More fans onto the field in celebration.
"It felt great. We had all kinds of fans out there. There's excitement about the program right now," coach James Johnson said. "They rushed the field and celebrated with us."
Michaela Ward put the Sabers on the board and Katie Kulas scored on an assist from Jade Brinkoetter to make it 2-0 at intermission.
"We were up 2-0 at the half and that makes me a little nervous. I always tell them that's the most dangerous lead in soccer because the other team gets one goal, they've got all the momentum and they're coming at you," Johnson said. "I told them we really needed to push to get the third goal."
Brinkoetter scored unassisted early in the second half for the Sabers, who play Princeton in Tuesday's sectional semifinal at Chillicothe IVC.
The Illineks scored on a penalty kick by Sarah Vaughen.
It was the third meeting between St. Thomas More (15-5-1) and Uni (10-7-2). The Sabers have beaten the Illineks twice and the two teams played to a 1-1 draw in the season opener.
"It's certainly personally fulfilling for me to have success with this team, but I can't take the credit. It's been the girls from Day 1 putting in all the work, and if I didn't have such a great group of girls who bust their butts every day we wouldn't have gotten anywhere this year," Johnson said.