The strongest field in the 13-year history of the Pekin Invitational girls soccer tournament battled it out this past weekend at Coal Miners Park.
Unfortunately, the host Dragons had to face the top two teams in the tournament Saturday without two of their best players, who were injured.
Tournament champion Geneseo beat Pekin 5-2, then runner-up Bradley-Bourbonnais defeated the Dragons 4-1.
Pekin’s Valerie Champagne (ankle) missed both games after getting hurt Friday during the Dragons’ 2-1 tournament win over Washington.
Western Illinois recruit Alex Bassen (knee) sat out the Bradley-Bourbonnais game. She was injured during the Geneseo game.
“We missed having Valerie and Alex out there,” said Pekin coach Edgar Sandoval. “Hopefully we’ll get them back soon.”
Pekin and its two opponents Saturday have now accounted for six tournament championships in the last eight years.
Geneseo (2012, 2019), Bradley-Bourbonnais (2015, 2018) and Pekin (2016, 2017) each has won twice since 2012.
Sandoval said it was a beneficial weekend for his team despite losing two of three games.
“We got out of the tournament what we wanted to get out of it,” he said. “We had three challenging games. And we got a look at Bradley-Bourbonnais, which is in our sub-sectional.”
Pekin (6-3-2) scored both its goals against Washington in the first half. Gracie Kizer scored off a Bassen corner kick and Bassen scored with an assist from her sister Bailey Bassen.
Sandoval said Alex Bassen did a great job controlling the pace of the game and he praised the defensive work of Allie Scally, Megan Nelson, McKenzie Cupi and Champagne in front of goalie Paige Smith.
Washington scored its lone goal with less than a minute to go. Addison Prina ruined Smith’s shutout.
Pekin and Washington will meet in their Mid-Illini Conference game May 9 at Washington’s Babcook Field.
Tyranie Cox scored both Pekin goals against Geneseo (14-4-1), which led 5-0 before the Dragons finally broke through.
Pekin trailed Bradley-Bourbonnais 3-0 at halftime, then played the Boilers evenly in the second half.
Scally nearly tied the game on her own.
She had three long direct free kicks. The first sailed just wide, the second went into the net off the hands of goalie Kaitlyn Randle with 17:54 left, and the third hit the crossbar.
“Allie (Scally) is such a versatile player,” Sandoval said. “I’d like to have her play up front more, but she’s such a critical player for us in back.”
Bradley-Bourbonnais scored its final goal with 7:54 to go.
The second half of the game got a bit chippy because of some inconsistent officiating and the game ended strangely when two minutes of stoppage time was added by the referee despite both coaches wanting to take their team off the field.
In addition to the three-goal differential, the teams were tired.
Each team in the tournament played three games in less than 24 hours, quite a grind even though games were reduced to 70 instead of 80 minutes.
Smith, Pekin’s goalie, was busy against Geneseo and Bradley-Bourbonnais, making a total of 19 saves.
Washington (6-6-1) lost all three of its tournament games, but Coach Joe Waters liked what he saw from the Panthers.
“We grew up a lot as a team. I’m proud of the way we competed against quality teams and I look forward to seeing improvement the rest of the season,” he said.
“We’re still figuring out how to be more consistent for an entire game against tough programs. We made too many simple mistakes during the tournament and didn’t finish the chances that presented themselves. If we finish our opportunities, a lot of the momentum changes in those games.”
Geneseo won all three of its tournament games by a combined 8-2 to win the championship.
“Our girls had a great time playing, the competition was great, and it was nice to come back to the tournament,” said Geneseo coach Harvey Morton. “We’ll look to see if we can fit it in again next season.”
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.