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Class A state preview story: Columbia

By Curt Herron, 11/01/23, 9:30PM CDT


When a team has recorded eight shutouts in its last nine matches and only allowed one goal during that stretch as it heads into the state semifinals, it is definitely a squad to be reckoned with.

That's the story for Columbia, which is located about 20 miles south of downtown St. Louis. Unbeaten in their last 11 matches, the 17-3-4 Eagles meet University (Normal) in the second semifinal match at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hoffman Estates High School.

The Eagles won their sectional and supersectional matches with shutouts after giving up their lone postseason goal in a 1-1 title match win in PKs over regional host Father McGivney on Oct. 18 in Glen Carbon.

In the sectional in Murphysboro, coach Jamey Bridges' squad captured a 3-0 win over Gibault in the semifinals and then won by the same score over Marquette (Alton) in the title match. 

Columbia captured a 1-0 victory over Williamsville in the North Mac Supersectional in Virden to earn its berth in the Final Four. Junior midfielder Micah James scored in the 10th minute following an assist from junior forward Hayes vanBreusegen to notch the only goal against Williamsville this postseason.

This is the Eagles third appearance in the finals and first since winning the Class A title in 2014. 

Columbia has recorded 16 shutouts and allowed just 13 goals all season. During their current 8-0-1 run of success, they've outscored their opponents by an impressive 43-2 margin. The 0-0 tie came against highly ranked Class AA side Triad.

Senior defender Kane Riebeling earned IHSSCA All-State honors for his play along Columbia's backline. Junior goalkeeper Brady Hemminghaus, who received all-section honorable mention, owns an 0.50 GAA in 24 matches and has 130 saves to his credit.

Leading the offense for the Eagles is vanBreusegen, who earned all-section honors. He tops the team in both goals (21) and assists (10).  

Other top scorers for Columbia are junior defender Liam Bivins (9 goals, 4 assists), senior forward Carson Mueth (9 goals, 5 assists), James (8 goals, 8 assists), freshman midfielder Luke DeWilde (8 goals, 7 assists) and freshman midfielder Owen Worcester (6 goals, 4 assists). The team captains are vanBreusegen, Riebeling, Hemminghaus and Bivins.

Thirteen players have appeared in all 24 of the team's matches. Others who haven't missed a match are sophomore defender Connor Briley, senior defender Lucas Cole, junior midfielder Drew Elliot, junior defender Jack Fromme, junior midfielder Anderson Judy, sophomore defender Elliot Nelson and junior midfielder Nathan Rein.

Bridges is 45-18-7 in three seasons leading the Eagles. He took over for Jason Mathenia, whose seven-year run started with a 21-3-2 record and the 2014 championship. That season Columbia topped Herscher 3-0 in the semifinals and Timothy 2-0 in the championship match. 

The Eagles won 17 matches last season but saw their season end against eventual state runnerup Althoff in the sectional finals.

The team's assistant coaches are Ray Baumann and Steven Frierdich.

Regardless of how the team fares this weekend, the future looks very bright. There are only four seniors on the roster: midfielder Chase Faris, Riebeling, Mueth and Cole.

"Our team has battled all year against a really tough schedule," Bridges said. "We are a team that works hard and does our best to lockdown defensively. We have strong leadership and are a really close team."

Columbia also shows a third place finish on its state resume. That came in its first visit Final Four visit in 2010 for coach Shawn Hewitt. The Eagles fell 1-0 to Peoria Christian in the semifinals before claiming a 4-1 victory over Stillman Valley.