‘They deserved it’: Cyclones flex muscle, end Raiders season in sectional championship


Quincy Notre Dame junior forward Makayla Patton drives past Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin defender Callie Huston during Wednesday's Class 1A sectional championship in Riverton, Ill. | Shane Hulsey photo

RIVERTON, Ill. — The tone of Mark Thomas’ voice almost never changes.

This was the case even as the Quincy Notre Dame girls soccer team fell behind in the first half of Wednesday’s Class 1A Riverton Sectional championship game against Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin.

“If we keep this at 2-1 at halftime, we’re fine,” the Raiders coach said to his players in his usual encouraging manner as he paced the sideline with 15 minutes left in the half.

The Raiders were on their way to doing that until senior defender Aubrey Sparrow’s inadvertent handball in the 35th minute set up a free kick for the Cyclones from 30 yards out. SHG junior midfielder Caroline Sheehan unleashed a shot that ripped through the wall at the edge of the 18-yard box and sailed past diving goalkeeper Addison Van Hecke, extending the Cyclones lead to 3-1.

“That really kind of broke our back,” Thomas said. “Good players score good goals, and that’s what that was. That happens.”

Raiders junior forward Makayla Patton watched as Sheehan’s shot whistled by on its way to the back of the net.

“It was just a perfect shot,” Patton said. “You have one spot to hit it through and that’s what she did.”

The Cyclones added two more goals in the second half, including another from Sheehan in the 53rd minute that completed the hat trick, to win 5-1.

“Caroline likes to score, I don’t know if you can tell that,” Cyclones coach Mike Lindsey said with a smirk.

Patton gave the Raiders a jolt in the 21st minute. With the Raiders down 2-0, junior midfielder Sage Stratton corralled a long throw toward the box by Jovie Monteyne and slid a pass to Patton, who took a touch and tucked a shot into the lower left corner to bring the Raiders within one.

“I just kept calm,” Patton said of her goal. “I didn’t know how it was going to go, but I was like, ‘Whatever, I’m right here, I’ll just shoot it.’ It was exciting to get it, but I knew we had to get more, which didn’t exactly happen, but we still worked towards that, which is good.”

SHG has eliminated QND from the postseason in back-to-back seasons. The Cyclones defeated the Raiders 4-2 in last year’s regional championship.

“It’s better to lose to a good team than a team you feel like you should have beaten,” Van Hecke said. “They deserved it.”

Thomas likes SHG’s chances in the super-sectional and beyond. The Cyclones (20-5) will face Belleville Althoff, which upset top-seeded Columbia 4-3 on Tuesday, at noon Saturday in the Class 2A North Mac Super-Sectional in Virden.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if they win that and end up taking the whole thing next weekend,” said Thomas, whose team finished 14-13 in his first season at the helm.

With the Raiders’ loss comes the unwelcomed reality that seasons and careers have come to an end. Both are true for Van Hecke, who played the final game of her soccer career on Wednesday.

“I couldn’t have imagined not playing soccer during my four years,” Van Hecke said. “The camaraderie, the friendships I’ve made, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Van Hecke was part of a senior class that finished fourth in Class 1A in 2021 and won a state title in 2022.

“QND soccer has always been a big thing,” Van Hecke said. “We have a very rich history, and being able to live up to it and contribute to it, it means everything.”

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