By Michael Wojtychiw
Lane 1, Payton 0
The Champions were lookng to get back to the championship game when they took on Payton at an unseasonably chilly Winnemac Stadium Monday afternoon.
The two teams had played a close game in the regular season, one that saw the Grizzlies go up 1-0 in the second half before the Champions scored three straight to secure yet another Premier Division crown, this time a Premier North crown after the Chicago Public League decided to go into two separate divisions.
Much like the first matchup, the two went into the half tied at 0, but there was one major difference. The Grizzlies had two early chances to get on the scoreboard after attackers had gotten past the keeper, but both times their shots went just wide of the goal.
The second half, however, proved to be a different story, one in where the Champions were able to get more traction until they were finally able to capitalize on a beautiful ball from Mary Rau to sophomore Grace Carman with just over 10-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game.
“I saw a gap that Mary could play me through and I just went for it,” Carman said. “I just didn’t wanna miss it.
“It feels great to be going back to the city final, especially since we had a rough start. We persevered. It’s been tough, but we’re finally finding out own.
“It was a rough first half and we knew it, so at half we talked about coming out with intensity and playing smart. The first half we were forcing balls and just trying to score right away but it wasn’t working, we just needed to calm down.”
The win sets up a game against Jones, which defeated Young in penalty kicks. The Champions defeated the Eagles 5-1 earlier this season.
Jones 1, Young 0 (4-3 PKs)
Regulation wasn’t enough for these two rivals.
After an excruciatingly tough, physical 80 minutes, the game skipped the double overtime periods and went right into penalty kicks.
One major thing was different for the Eagles, however. Goalie Ruby MIller, who played all of regulation, wasn’t in net for the penalty kick portion.
Instead, manager Derek Bylsma went with junior keeper Triseana Williams to come off the bench.
“It’s extremely nervewracking to do that,” she said about coming off the bench cold. “Our goalie did great the entire game and going into penalties I was extremely nervous but thankfully I pulled through, my teammates pulled through.
“Often times the shooters gve away their plan of where to shoot from their eyes. I point and my teammates have said that that messes shooters up. And I look at the hips, where you can tell usually which way they’re going to go.”
Illinois high school soccer penalty kicks are a best of five. After missing its first kick, the Eagles converted the next three, having to keep up with the Dolphins, who had also converted three of their four attempts.
That meant, however, that everything came down to the last kick for each team, especially after Williams made a save on a Moira Koleno rocket at the net on the Dolphins’ fifth try.
That brought Jones’ Kaelyn Perez to the penalty kick area with a chance to send her team to the city championship game for only the second time in Bylsma’s 15-year career at Jones.
“I’m terrified of PKs,” she said. “I was like ‘If I make it, it’s over. If I miss it it’s over.’”
She nailed it.
“But it ended well. The fact they can trust me in that position makes me really feel good. They said if you make it great, if you miss it, that’s ok too. I’ve always been afraid of that so it’s nice to have their support.”
The win gave the Eagles two wins over the Dolphins this year and they’ll be going for a third next week when they face off in the regional semifinals at Young.