WATERLOO – In 2019, DeKalb girls soccer coach Logan Cochran and his team were tied with Bellmont atop the Northeast 8 standings. The Barons thought they were ready for their trip down to Decatur, but instead were rocked 3-0.
This year, DeKalb and Bellmont once again met in the final conference match of the season with the league title on the line. But this time, the No. 11 Barons (13-2, 6-1 NE8) kept the pressure on for 80 minutes for a 2-0 victory at home Monday.
Both teams finish with a league record of 6-1 and will be named co-champions as the NE8 does not break ties in conference standings.
“To get this one this year and say that we can win a conference championship, whether we share it or not, is great,” Cochran said. “Three conference championships in five years, I think that’s saying something for the program, and saying something for these girls and how hard they work.”
The Barons kept the pressure on Bellmont (7-3-2) for much of the first half, but neither team had any particularly close calls for the first 30 minutes of the game.
With just over four minutes to play in the first half, a casual pass from one Bellmont defender to another was picked off by DeKalb sophomore Caroline Pranger, but her shot from close range was high.
Just over a minute later, Barons sophomore Katie Witte settled a pass and took a wide-open shot, but it was knocked down by Bellmont junior goalkeeper Lexi Ellsworth, and the game remained scoreless at halftime.
Eleven minutes into the second half, DeKalb took two straight corner kicks and came up with nothing.
But a minute later, all that pressure finally payed off, and a header by junior Maddison Linker found its way into the net to give the Barons a 1-0 lead.
“Grace Snyder had a great cross in, and I was like, ‘I gotta do this one,’ so I threw my head in,” Linker said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if it went in,’ but I heard people. And I was like, ‘Oh yay!’”
Snyder has been more of a goal scorer than a facilitator this year (she came into the game with 21 goals and six assists), but she was glad to set up the shot that ended up giving the Barons a share of the conference title.
“(Linker’s) was a good one, because she used her whole body to get it into the goal, so that was really cool,” Snyder said.
Ellsworth kept Bellmont in the game with a save at 11:45, and with just under three minutes to play knocked a DeKalb shot out of the air and then held onto the ball to keep the deficit at one goal.
With about 10 minutes to play, Bellmont had its best scoring chance of the game, but someone from the crowd in front of the net knocked the ball out of play.
DeKalb starting goalkeeper Sydney Mansfield was injured on the play and replaced by Aliyah Kern for the final 10 minutes.
With 52 seconds remaining on the clock, Snyder took a powerful shot from the left side. Ellsworth dived for it but couldn’t stop the shot, and the Barons led 2-0.
“I was on the outside here, and Hope (Lewis) sent in a really good ball, and I just touched it and shot it hoping it would go in, and it did, so that was really cool,” Snyder said.
“It’s awesome, because last year I feel like we just gave (the conference title) to them, and this year we really dug deep and pushed through and found the strength to finish the game.”