By Anthony Jones
There are a lot of words that could be used to describe this year’s Triad girls soccer. But one sticks out after last week–champions.
Their IHSA state title marked their second in as many years, a feat that had only been completed 9 times before in state history.
Facing off against the Lady Knights in the June 4 championship bout was the Benet Academy Redwings. The Redwings entered with 22-4 and had recent history with Triad from when they defeated the Lady Knights 3-1 in the 2019 State Finals.
Benet also had several advantages outside of their past success versus Triad. The Redwings needed only a 7 minute drive to reach North Central College, while Triad had to make a nearly 4 hour trek to the site. Benet also avoided playing overtime the previous day, while the Lady Knights needed 20 extra minutes of effort to bypass Fenwick in 3-1 fashion.
When the game finally kicked off, defense was the early story. The Redwings wouldn’t put their first shot on goal until 21 minutes into the action, when Reagan Chigas made a diving save to keep the 0-0 tie intact.
Triad dominated possession and field position in the opening half, but had nothing to show for it as the two squads headed into the intermission scoreless.
A breakthrough finally came with 22 minutes left to play in the game thanks to senior Gina Catanzaro. The Maryville commit sidestepped a pair of defenders at the edge of the box and buried a shot in the top right corner of the net for a 1-0 advantage.
“Today is definitely my favorite shot of the whole year just because it’s the state final and putting my team up top,” the forward said of her lead taking shot.
Playing from behind, the Redwings began to build pressure and it paid off in a big way with a penalty kick with just four minutes to play.
Mariana Pinto, Benet’s leading scorer, launched the shot hard to the left side of the net–but hit the post.
The Redwings would never see as promising of a chance, leaving Triad with a 1-0 victory.
Senior and team captain Brynn Presley described the fresh feeling of being a back-to-back champion, “Not many people can say that, so being able to really means a lot, especially since it’s the first time it’s ever been done at Triad. We just created history for the second time this year.”
In their three high school seasons, Triad’s 12 seasons have amassed an overall record of 69-5-3 and have more than impressed Coach Matt Bettlach, “What this group has done for us is unbelievable and we’re gonna miss them dearly. I can’t thank them enough for their efforts. ‘With tradition comes responsibility’ is our motto and the responsibility is to show up everyday and work and do it the Triad way and these seniors have been a prime example of that.”
Their IHSA Class 2A Championship also served as a swan song for Triad’s longtime red uniforms.
“The red jerseys that we wore today have been around for about five or six years and these red jerseys have meant a lot in this program, a lot of girls and a lot of special players have worn these. I told them today was the day we’re gonna retire this jersey, win or lose, but I told the girls it’d be sweet if we could retire these jerseys with the state title.”