HOFFMAN ESTATES – In the most uncharacteristic fashion, the Joliet Catholic Academy girls soccer team struggled to muster its typical offensive firepower in its 1-0 loss to Triad in the Class 2A state final on Saturday.
Throughout this postseason, JCA (16-2-1) has consistently shown tremendous passing, relentless runs at goal producing chance after chance and utilized its scoring abilities from basically every position on the pitch to steamroll opponents. In the first five matches of this postseason, the Angels scored a mind-boggling average of eight goals per match, while allowing opponents to score a mere total of five during the same stretch.
But in Saturday’s final against the Knights (24-0-1), the Angels passing failed to produce its usual number of chances at goal. Triad defenders consistently stopped routine JCA passes to halt possessions before they could get going. Several hard fouls also frustrated JCA players.
“It just didn’t go our way,” said JCA senior Morgan Furmaniak. “We kept trying. We kept pushing, but I don’t know. We didn’t go out like we wanted to.”
JCA coach Oscar Valdez complimented Triad’s defensive play, especially when it came to how it played Furmaniak, who, as has been the case for the entire postseason, always seemed to have at least one defender by her side regardless of whether she was even near the ball.
“They were solid,” Valdez said of Triad’s defense.
The match was also physical at times, with several fouls stopping momentum for the Angels. Furmaniak even had to take a minute off the pitch early in the first half after a hard hit left her getting up from the ground slowly.
Still, the JCA defense held its own with Kate Gerdes, Brynn Higgins and Natalie D’Andrea making numerous big tackles to prevent Triad from scoring. Gerdes even stopped one Triad possession with a clean slide tackle to dispossess a Knights attacker.
But Valdez said he had warned his team about one particularly dangerous tactic Triad uses to create scoring opportunities.
Knights forward Laney Harshany had multiple chances to showcase her strong front-flip, throw-in ability which delivered the ball deep into the JCA box.
It worked for Triad on one throw-in 24 minutes into the match, when Harshany delivered the throw into a crowd of players in the box. The ball landed in front of Triad midfielder Gracie Giacoletto, who kicked it into the net for the 1-0 lead.
“They know how to pass very well,” Gerdes said of Triad. “They’re very good at their game. Usually we’re able to shut it down … but [Harshany], I’ll give it to her, that throw won them the game.”
While Triad continued to stifle JCA’s passing, the Angels had several chances to score on set pieces. With about 25 minutes left to play, a Kendall McLeod corner kick met Furmaniak’s head, but the ball went right into the arms of goalkeeper Reagan Chigas.
About seven minutes later, JCA had what might have been the team’s best chance at tying the match.
Furmaniak chased a long pass going at goal which prompted Chigas to follow and cut off the run. Just before the keeper made it to her, Furmaniak found teammate Emma Gruber open for a pass, but Gruber’s shot went wide of the net.
Triad managed to keep JCA attackers at bay for the remainder of the match. JCA ended its season with only its second loss and a second-place finish.
Despite the result, the Angels said they were proud of all they accomplished this season, especially after losing last year to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My girls played awesome,” Valdez said. “I could not ask for anything better than that. Everyone gave their effort and that’s what I’m proud of.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle