As the Lincoln-Way Central girls soccer team walked off their pitch at the end of regulation during Saturday’s match with district rival Lincoln-Way West, coach Sean Fahey’s confidence never wavered.
Despite trading goals throughout the grueling match, the Knights (10-1-2) scored twice in the final 10 minutes to take a 3-2 lead, looking to top the Warriors (7-5-1) for a second time this season.
But as Lincoln-Way West turned up the pressure on offense, earned a penalty kick and tied the contest with less than a minute remaining, the Knights knew they had to finish it in overtime.
“Our coaches basically told us to keep the intensity up because we were the better team this game,” Lincoln-Way Central senior midfielder Megan Hutchinson said.
Fahey described the rapid shift in fortune as a “huge mental assault,” but knew his team already had come back multiple times throughout the match. Still, he conceded that despite the intensity, it “took a while for us to find our stride.”
The Warriors defense kept the Knights in check through the first 25 minutes of the match. West’s players pressed the ball whenever they could, creating opportunities.
It was the Warriors’ freshman forward Morgan Sallese who opened the scoring to put Lincoln-Way West ahead, 1-0, with about 13 minutes left to play in the first half.
Central took about 30 seconds to respond when Hutchinson made one of her many runs at goal. While her shot was blocked by the Warriors keeper, the ball rolled right to her teammate, freshman Emma Vogler, who scored from deep with an open net to tie the match at 1 going into halftime.
Lincoln-Way West opened the second half continuing to press Central up and down field. Warriors coach Jeff Theiss lauded defenders like junior Casey Bumstead and Amanda Yaeger for sniffing out the Knights’ attacks all match.
Then it was Sallese again who put her team ahead with her second goal of the match with less than 15 minutes left to play to make it 2-1.
But the Knights came right back. About five minutes later, another freshman, Reagan Schultz, got the ball near the outer box, made a quick turn and blasted the ball into the back of the net to tie the match at 2.
Hutchinson and company weren’t satisfied.
“That was probably the most frustrating part for me,” Hutchinson said. “Because usually in games I can easily make those, and [West’s] goalie had a very good game today, but I just never gave up, and I knew it was going to keep coming if I keep getting chances.”
And with about four minutes left. Hutchinson found an opening, sprinted away from the Warriors’ defense and notched her own goal for the 3-2 lead.
The advantage wouldn’t last, however.
The Warriors created chances in the Knights’ defensive third as the seconds ticked down. Lincoln-Way West earned a corner kick, and while the Central keeper initially got to the ball as it was served into the box, a scramble resulted in a Warriors player going down and the referee whistling for a foul.
Junior Zoey Trout stepped forward to take the shot for the Warriors and calmly placed it in the bottom left corner to tie the match at 3.
As regulation ended and the Knights regrouped for overtime, Fahey said that’s when they had to “lean on leadership.”
“You got to lean on people that have been there, people that can be tough in adverse situations,” he said. “When you’re that tired, that’s a hard ask for some of those kids that haven’t been in that role.”
It didn’t take long for Central to respond.
Hutchinson again made a run but was fouled, this time about 30 yards from the net.
Not even a minute-and-a-half into overtime, junior Jenni Andjelic took the free kick, which she hit into the back of the net for the golden goal and the 4-3 victory.
“I just had to calm myself down, get my composure, take a couple deep breaths and strike the ball,” she said.
Hutchinson and Fahey both praised Andjelic for her work in the midfield and her ability to score.
Fahey also lauded his team for fighting through a “postseason-like” match and said it was good for them “to get that experience, to get that atmosphere, to get that energy.”
“I’m super proud of the girls,” he said.
Source: The Daily Chronicle