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By Anthony Jones
The target on the back of Triad’s back-to-back state championship seasons comes with some perks, including the ability to build a schedule of elite programs.
The Lady Knights list of opponents have combined for five state championship trophies over the past two seasons and includes the best of both Illinois and Missouri.
Coach Bettlach discussed how their usually tough schedule added even more powerhouses, “They all reached out to us. Everybody wanted to play us and I said okay. Even though we lost a lot, we have a good nucleus coming back.”
Their challenging campaign began on Mar. 14, against O’Fallon. The Panthers won the IHSA Class 3A championship in 2021 and boasted a 40-4 record over the past two years that included two losses to the Lady Knights.
O’Fallon struck first in the battle of top programs, going up 2-0 after just six minutes of play. Triad’s defense found better footing after their initial start and held the Panthers scoreless over the next 34 minutes.
The speedy Panthers come out hot after half time as well, moving ahead 4-0 seven minutes removed from the break. A penalty conversion and another goal with four minutes left sealed the cold night with a 6-0 victory for O’Fallon.
Two days later, the Lady Knights returned to their home field for a cold and rain-plagued battle with the Rochester Rockets.
The visitors struck first, cleaning up a rebound of a Payton Hartmann save. This pushed the Rockets ahead 1-0 16 minutes into the action.
Triad would respond with their first goal of the season, as an Alexa Holley corner kick bounced around before sophomore Alina Ayran buried an equalizer with 17 minutes left in the half.
Rochester pulled ahead again in the second half at 2-1, after a loose ball pinballed through the box with 33 minutes to play. Their lead was extended to 3-1 just two minutes later after a Rocket shot launched from nearly 30 yards out buried into the net.
“I think in the first two games, the goals that we’ve given up have been easily preventable and mistakes on our end. Their second goal, the ball bounced around and we didn’t clear it out after a nice save and we’re not there to pick up the rebound. The third goal, we turn the ball over and then the girl makes us pay for it by hitting that shot,” Coach Bettlach discussed the tallies that led to a 3-1 loss.
While the Lady Knights are off to an uncharacteristic 0-2 start, their manager remains confident in his squad.
“We’re replacing eight starters and we’re trying to figure out our system and we’re trying to figure things out still. It’s the second game of the year, so we’re not in panic mode. We’re just in trying to figure it out mode,” Triad’s coach remarked.