PALOS HEIGHTS — Like a semi-truck that dumped a load of steel on Interstate 80 and stopped traffic on Tuesday, the Manteno girls soccer team effectively did the same to Coal City earlier that afternoon.
Bouyed by a hat trick from Emily Gather, the Panthers soccer team steamrolled past the Coalers by a 7-0 score in the semifinal round of the Chicago Christian Class 1A Girls Soccer Sectional.
Kind of like the Christian marquise, which sat snug in the shade yet still unveiled a 85-degree temperature, the game started out somewhat cooly for both teams. In fact, things were quite even through the first eight minutes, with Coal City getting shots on goal from Alisha Johnson, Brittany Jezik and Brynna Borgra in that span.
Then the figurative load of steel fell off the semi.
Gather scored the first of her three goals by coming in from the left and beating Coal City keeper low left and a minute and a half later, Sophia Schnitzler scored the first of her two goals —that one with an assist from Jasmine Davis.
Just like that, 10 minutes in and Manteno had a 2-0 lead in the scorching heat.
"I think it's a confidence thing," Manteno coach Kevin Mikuce said. "Seems like once we get one in, they remember how things work."
Those were the second of four first half goals by the Panthers.
"I think once they scored, they got rejuvenated and we kind of got down on ourselves," Coal City senior Alisha Johnson said.
Sarah Marshall scored the third goal of the day with an assist from Lauren Kenealy and Gaither capped the goals in the first half after she beat Sirovy way out front and then dribbled it in uncontested.
"Today they (Panthers) looked like a team that has a great chance of making it," Coal City coach Michael Kostbade said. "Their offense was amazing today. They had a great pace going and they picked up a lot of loose balls and put them in. With them, there is no keying on certain players because, on that team they have so many who are capable of scoring goals."
In the second half, Schnitzler scored again, Gaither finished off her hat trick and Kaylee Tuttila put the slaughter rule in effect by scoring the seventh goal.
Despite the decisive loss, Coal City seemed determined not to leave the pitch in sorrow.
"I told the girls that they needed to try and erase what happened here," Kostbade said. "I told them to put into their minds all of the great things that have happened this year. I think most of the girls are leaving here with a sense of satisfaction.
Coal City ends the season with an 11-4-1 record.
"Even though we lost today, I'm still happy that we won a regional for the first time ever this year," Johnson said.