Facing nationally ranked Naperville Central in a Class 3A super-sectional Oct. 30 at Normal, the Edwardsville soccer team knew what it was up against.
But the Tigers didn't go down without a battle.
Jay Tegge's shot from 40 yards out proved to be the only goal as Central posted a 1-0 victory. The Redhawks (22-1) advanced to the state tournament, where they lost 2-1 in overtime to Gurnee Warren in the championship game. Edwardsville finished at 17-5-2.
"They've been on a roll since the (postseason) began," Edwardsville coach Mark Heiderscheid said of Central. "From the outset, a lot of people looked for them to win the state title after they finished second last year.
"I thought we played very effectively - it was a situation where we could have won that game."
Heiderscheid has had teams with more scoring punch, more physical strength and more experience, but the 2012 Tigers made the most out of what they had.
"I hate to reflect on losses, but one was on a penalty kick shootout and another (against O'Fallon) was a one-goal loss that we avenged later," Heiderscheid said. "I was very pleased with what we accomplished.
"We didn't have anyone like (former EHS standout) Sam Fink that's going to win you a lot of games with his offense. This group had to work a lot more collectively, but they connected the ball very well and they were very organized."
Edwardsville had four senior starters - goalkeeper Brandon Baker, defender Tyler Postol, midfielder Geno Weatherly and Frank Verdu, who moved to forward after starting the season in the backfield.
"We've had a lot of success in recent years and I don't want to say our success this year was unexpected, but we didn't have as many seniors as we typically do," Heiderscheid said. "Postol were the only ones who started last season. Geno was called up to the varsity midway through the season and Brandon was our third-string goalie. On paper, that doesn't have the makings of a team that almost made the final four."
Verdu finished with a team-high 13 goals while Weatherly had six goals and three assists. Senior Austin Donelson, who was a substitute forward, had six goals.
Baker was 15-1-2 with a 0.46 goals-against average and 12 shutouts (10 solo). The backup keeper was senior Ryan Hessler.
Beyond the seniors, several other players were key contributors.
"(Junior) Brent Heinlein (three goals, six assists) was very good up front at checking and recovering the ball and keeping possession," Heiderscheid said. "He had four or five assists in the postseason.
"We had a couple sophomore midfielders in Landon Paul (11 goals, seven assists) and Andrew Mullican. Landon obviously helped us with his goal scoring, but Andrew is a fantastic player for being very small. We had a junior, Hayden, who played behind them and came into his own."
Sophomore midfielder Nick Heinemeyer had four goals while freshman midfielder Tommy Giacobbe (two goals, two assists) also played well until getting injured in a 3-0 win over Jerseyville on Oct. 8.
The Tigers' defense included freshman Austin Toby and sophomore Liam Burke.
"(Juniors) Josh Kowalis and Bailey Winfield in the back were nails in the second half of the season," Michael Romann, a junior, came off the bench for us, so we had a lot of players who made an impact."
With so many players coming back, Heidererscheid can already envision most of Edwardsville's starting lineup for next season.
"Verdu was so good offensively down the stretch and Postol was a key figure in the backfield, so we have to replace them," Heiderscheid said. "At keeper, it will be a challenge to replace Baker. But we'll be bigger, stronger and more seasoned and we have the potential to be a very good team."