SPRINGFIELD – Luke Atkinson headed home a beautiful cross from his brother Justin in the 77th minute, and it was the difference as Marquette Catholic defeated Riverton 1-0 in the IHSA boys’ soccer Class 1A sectional final Friday evening at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin Catholic high school.

The Explorers are through to the last eight teams in Class 1A and advance to the Breese Mater Dei Catholic super-sectional match Tuesday night against the winner of the Columbia sectional Saturday evening between the host Eagles and Mt. Carmel’s Golden Aces.

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The Explorers were able to play their enterprising, attacking style throughout, outshooting the Hawks 34-1, with the Riverton goalie coming up with 22 saves.

“It was a little bit of a nail-biter at the end,” said Marquette head coach Tim Gould, “We had a lot of chances throughout the game, and we finally got one to go into the back of the net.”

The Explorers did play well, using their attacking style to create chances against a very tight Riverton defense.

“We played well,” Gould said. “We played our normal attacking style of soccer, and their goalie made 22 saves. He was tremendous.”

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Gould also thought the team’s enthusiasm and spirit was very good throughout, and also gave credit to the Hawks’ defensive effort.

“They did a good job defensively,” Gould said, “they stayed behind the ball, packed it in, and they did a great job of guarding the goal.”

The breakthrough came three minutes from the match going into extra time, when Justin Atkinson sent a diagonal cross into the box, from where Luke got a head on it and deflected it into the net for the only goal of the match. The Explorer defense and midfield also did a great job in keeping attacks alive.

“Our midfield and defenders did a good job possessing the ball,” Gould said, “and they did a great job in maintaining our attack.”

Marquette is now 17-3-5 on the season and advances to the super-sectional match on Tuesday. Gould is looking forward to the challenge.

“I don’t know anything about Mt. Carmel yet,” Gould said with a laugh, “but I know Columbia is well-coached, they’ll be physical, and I think they’ll go forward in their attack. I’m looking forward to a tremendous match on Tuesday.”

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