STERLING – Those who braved the cool temperatures Friday to see the third meeting between the Sterling and Dixon girls soccer teams got all they could bargain for, and a little more.
Pushing, shoving, tripping and more added up to a defensive struggle in a quarterfinal matchup of the 3A United Township Regional at Roscoe Eades Stadium. The final result was a 1-0 win for Dixon, avenging an earlier 1-0 loss to the Warriors. The teams tied 1-1 in their other meeting.
Dixon advances to play top-seeded United Township on Tuesday in East Moline.
The lone goal was scored early in the first half by freshman Katie Provo.
After a quick steal by Cristin Rozek at midfield, Provo streaked down the sideline and received the pass behind the Sterling defense.
It was a foot race from there, as she had only Sterling goalkeeper Callie Sinn to beat on the breakaway.
"I got the pass from Cristin," Provo said, "all I had to do was dribble it up and place it in the corner. It came off cleanly and got by."
The Duchesses were dominant on the defensive side, not allowing the Warriors to get deep in the zone to set up scoring chances. Frustration boiled over on both sides as physical play continued without officials intervening.
Coming out after half, the Warriors were given a simple message by coach Brian Cebula: keep playing hard. With that in mind, the Warriors rallied, becoming more aggressive offensively.
"I told them 'You have 40 minutes or your season is over,'" Cebula said. "If that doesn't give you any urgency, I don't know what would."
The scoring chances came often for Sterling after half, but it couldn't hammer one home. Sterling senior Allie Johnson, junior Kaitlyn Bauer and freshman Rosa Sanchez all had shots on goal during a 15-minute span, but Dixon sophomore goalkeeper Carly Hartle survived the barrage.
"Their goalkeeper played remarkable," Cebula said."She made that incredible diving save that could've changed the game. Hats off to her."
Dixon coach Mahmoud Etemadi gave her similar praise.
"Our players stepped up, and Carly in goal was very intsrumental," he said. "She saved the goal that could have saved the game. That's how it is: You win by one goal or more, and this one we embraced the one."
The physicality increased the last 25 minutes. Provo received a penalty kick with about 10 minutes left to play, but the ball went off the crossbar. Both teams had aggressive style with a grind-it-out mentality.
"We played physical back," Provo said. "We kept playing hard, and stayed positive. It ended up getting us through until the end."
Star of the game: Carly Hartle, Dixon goalkeeper, 5 saves, shutout
Key performers: Katherine Provo, Dixon forward, long goal, scored in first half
Up next: 2A United Township Regional semifinal, Dixon at United Township, 5 p.m. Tuesday