GRANITE CITY – It was a regular-season finale to remember for the Marquette Catholic girls soccer team.

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Two of the top teams in the St. Louis area went at it Tuesday night when the Explorers traveled to Granite City to take on the Warriors.

An exciting, back-and-forth affair ended in a 2-2 tie. With the result, Marquette finishes the regular season at 16-3-2 while Granite City is now 11-2-1 with three games remaining until the postseason.

This one didn’t take long to get going.

Granite City could’ve found the back of the net early, but instead, senior midfielder Ella Hickam’s shot from distance bounced off the crossbar in the 9th minute.

Sophomore forward Ella Anselm went the other way for the Explorers and had a good shot saved by senior goalkeeper Alivia Upshaw.

Upshaw was one of 10 seniors honored on Senior Night for the Warriors.

The dangerous Anselm proved to be a handful for the Granite City defense. She received a ball in stride at the edge of the 18-yard box in the 29th minute. She took a touch before slotting one home with her left foot to break the tie.

She quickly doubled the lead less than 60 seconds later.

Thanks to her first-half brace, the Warriors found themselves shocked and trailing 2-0 on Senior Night.

Anselm finished the regular season with 28 goals to go along with seven assists.

Marquette head coach Brian Hoener expected a comeback from Granite City.

“Second half, they [Granite City] did what we thought they would do,” he said.

“They’re a very very good soccer team. We knew we were going to see a better team in the second half. We knew they were going to make a push and when they made that push, they had us on our heels.”

“We knew at halftime that the game was far from over,” Hoener said.

You know what they say about two-goal leads, and that rang true for the Warriors.

Coming back onto the field they had all the momentum, forcing Marquette senior keeper Hannah Marshall to really get involved in the game.

Granite City pestered the Explorers’ defense until they found a breakthrough.

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It came in the 53rd minute when senior forward Emmie Hogan cleaned up her own rebound. Her initial attempt was pushed away by Marshall but bounced right back to Hogan who put away the shot cleanly to cut the deficit in half.

It wasn’t long after that before the game was tied.

In the 55th minute, sophomore Savanhna Khammanyvong scored. The ball came bouncing toward her from a corner kick and she connected just enough to put the shot out of reach of the goalkeeper and tie the game up.

Her team erupted and fully believed that they would go on and win the thing.

After the second Granite City goal, the game fizzled out a little, but got increasingly more physical, leading to each team receiving a yellow card for some hard tackles.

With Granite City trying to get a win on Senior Night, they threw everything they had late in the game.

Hoener’s solution? Fight fire with fire.

He could be seen motioning for a 4-4-2 formation from the sideline in an attempt to go on the offensive in the final minutes.

“We were being a little bit more defensive today than we usually are,” Hoener said.

“In the last 10 minutes, we went to a little bit more of an attacking situation and said we’re either going to win this thing or if we lose the game by a goal or two, we’re happy with what we saw for 80 minutes.”

“In situations like this, we’re not really worried about the result as much as we’re worried about the quality of the play,” Hoener said.

No matter what happens, back-to-back games against tough IHSA Class 3A opponents only make you a better team.

“I told the girls at halftime; this is a good learning opportunity for us because in the postseason we’re going to have to go through some adversity,” Hoener added.

His side was just coming off a 3-2 over Belleville East the night before.

Neither team really had a great chance to score the game-winner in the last 25 minutes, but it did become an end-to-end game that was exciting to watch.

Closing in on the end of the season, the Warriors have three regularly scheduled games remaining against Incarnate Word (3-5-1), Civic Memorial (13-6), and Chatham Glenwood (12-4-1).

Both teams already know their playoff opponents.

Marquette, earning a No. 1 seed in their Class 1A Sub-Sectional, will host No. 9 Gillespie at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 9 at Gordon Moore Park.

The Warriors, earning a No. 3 seed in their Class 3A Sub-Sectional will take on No. 5 Quincy, in Quincy on Tuesday, May 16 at 6 p.m.

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