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Girls soccer: ‘Magical moment’ Crystal Lake Force wins 1st national title

Crystal Lake Soccer Federation Force girls soccer coach Mark Lewis still gets the chills when he talks about one of the club’s biggest accomplishments yet.

After qualifying for the Super Y League Finals in Tampa, Florida, during the summer, the Crystal Lake Force/FC Lake County 2003 girls team finished the job in dramatic fashion in December, rallying from 2-1 down in the semifinals and grabbing the Force’s first girls national title with a 2-0 overtime win in the final.

“They don’t know when to quit,” Lewis said. “It was a lot of hard work just to get there. To win everything in the way that they we did was pretty special. I’ve got goosebumps talking about it. It was a magical moment.

“I love coaching, I love winning, but this was special.”

Crystal Lake Force has sent other teams to national tournaments, but no girls team had ever won one. This season, CLSF partnered with FC Lake County, with the goal of putting together the most talented teams to compete nationally.

Overall, the clubs teamed up to create 11 Super Y League teams. Seven went on to the Super Y League Finals. Every player on the CLSF/FCLC 2003 roster, however, played for the Force with the exception of Carmel senior Lauren Jenkins.

The clubs will continue the partnership in 2022, Lewis said.

The CLSF/FCLC 2003 girls team, which is mostly made up of high school seniors in McHenry and Lake counties, went 2-0-1 in the group stage to advance and made two late comebacks on its way to a national title, including overcoming a 2-1 deficit in the semifinals with about 20 minutes remaining against Chicago Rush.

Crystal Lake Central sophomore Olivia Anderson scored the game-tying goal with a header into the lower left corner on a cross from Prairie Ridge junior Alexis Celentano. She later knocked in the game winner to reach the final.

In the championship match, CLSF/FCLC and Indiana Elite were scoreless in regulation and Anderson again scored the go-ahead goal in overtime. Larkin senior Jordan Vopat had a second goal for a 2-0 victory and national title.

“It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Anderson said of her semifinal goals. “It was a brilliant cross from my teammate, Alexis Celentano. You don’t get that perfect cross all the time, so that motivated me to go after it.

“The second goal, the game winner, it was mainly team effort. I was just the one to poke it in. It was because we didn’t stop going after it. One of my teammates [Crystal Lake South senior Peyton Dacy], she headed the ball back in because it was about to go out. We thought the opportunity was wasted and then she was able to keep it in. I just had to poke it in. It was a great team goal.”

Anderson was one of two sophomores brought up to play on the CLSF/FCLC 2003 team, along with Crystal Lake Central goalie Addison Cleary. Before leaving for Tampa, Johnson wrote down one last reminder in her assignment notebook: “Win a national title.”

Anderson, whose older sister Maddie (now a freshman at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh) also is on the team, said everyone was positive and hungry.

“We were all super excited and we had so much faith,” Olivia Anderson said. “Everyone was super pumped and, honestly, kind of confident. We were there to win.”

Cleary volunteered to play goalie when the team’s normal starter was unable to attend the tournament. She enjoyed the step up in competition, while Lewis said Cleary “came up with saves nobody should be making.”

Cleary earned the shutout in the championship victory against Indiana Elite and was happy it did not require penalty kicks.

“I was just hoping we didn’t end up going to [penalty kicks] because I didn’t want to go out like that,” Cleary said. “We were all just so energetic and ready to go. [Lewis] was really helping us, saying, ‘This is our game, we’ve come so far and we can do it.’

“He showed us we can do it and helped us believe in ourselves.”

Olivia Anderson said she gained life-long memories and friends.

“Just hearing the whistle blow after we won, looking over and seeing my coach kind of let go and relieved and happy was such a great memory,” Anderson said. “Everyone running into the circle and cheering and jumping. We were all so relieved and tired and just so happy.”

“That’s going to be a memory of mine forever.”

Many of the players on the team also were part of teams that qualified for the national tournament last year but were unable to go because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year served as redemption for missing out, Lewis said.

“It was incredible,” Lewis said. “It was a quality win for a quality group of ladies who got their opportunity. Five games in five days in 80-degree heat when you’re from Illinois in December is a special achievement. They played tough.”

Crystal Lake Force/FC Lake County 2003 roster

*–played during summer qualifying, but not at Super Y League Finals

Maddie Anderson, Crystal Lake Central (graduated)

Olivia Anderson, Crystal Lake Central, so.

Jordan Bodden, Wauconda, sr.

*Audrey Brua, Libertyville, sr.

Alexis Celentano, Prairie Ridge, jr.

Addison Cleary, Crystal Lake Central, so.

Peyton Dacy, Crystal Lake South, sr.

*Eva Eiss, Hononegah (graduated)

Reese Frericks, Richmond-Burton, jr.

*Chelsea Gale, Prairie Ridge (graduated)

Julia Howdeshell, Cary-Grove, sr.

*Molly Hughes, Hononegah, so.

Lauren Jenkins, Carmel, sr.

Isabel Johnson, Wauconda, sr.

Katie Karecki, Wauconda, sr.

Samira Khobdeh, Wauconda, sr.

Mackenzie Nelson, Prairie Ridge, sr.

*Nora Ryan, Crystal Lake Central (graduated)

Jordan Vopat, Larkin, sr.

Katelynn Ward, Woodstock North, sr.

*Lauren Wedig, Hononegah (graduated)

Kameron Zurzolo, Cary-Grove, sr.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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