Quality scoring chances were at a premium at the Class 1A girls soccer tournament this weekend.
Unfortunately for St. Edward, its second trip to state proved to be a fruitless experience. Playing Willows Academy for the third time this year, in the third-place match, St. Edward failed to score in a 2-0 loss to the Eagles Saturday night at Naperville Central High School.
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St. Edward finished its trophy-winning season at 14-9-3. The Green Wave became the first soccer team from a city of Elgin high school to bring home state hardware.
"Honestly, I think we were a little gun shy," St. Edward forward Mallory Malone said. "We let our nerves get the best of us."
Malone, who played in the Class A quarterfinals three years ago -- the only other time the Green Wave have made it to the state finals -- said adjusting to artificial turf after playing all season on grass was difficult.
"We're not used to playing on turf," Malone said. "The girls weren't used to how fast the ball was moving. We normally move the ball much better than that."
Thirteen-plus minutes into the game, St. Edward freshman striker Alison Kruk, the leading scorer for the squad, had the best of the early chances. But her low drive from 15 yards out barely missed the left post.
Willows' Kate Dunaway would make the most of the Eagles' limited scoring chances less than five minutes later. The senior midfielder one-timed a shot that eluded the outstretched hands of Wave keeper Paige Gannon. By the time the first half came to a close, St. Edward had failed to place any shots on goal.
"We put so much into (Friday) night," St. Edward coach Tim Brieger said. "We were a little flat in the first half."
The task for the Green Wave became infinitely more difficult when Willows' Stephanie Prince, who assisted the Eagles' opening goal, scored off a Justine Burgraff corner kick less than two minutes into the second half.
Gannon refused to rest any blame on a pinched nerve in her neck from the night before in allowing the Eagles' twin goals.
"Even if it did affect me, I'm not going to blame it on that," Gannon said. "They were both well-shot balls, and I couldn't get a grip on them."
With 18 minutes to play, St. Edward mustered its finest scoring opportunity of the evening. But Jordyn Madden had her header from point-blank range strike the post and bounce harmlessly away.
With just under 12 minutes to play, lightning in the area forced a mandatory 30-minute delay. With nothing to lose, St. Edward rolled the dice. Gannon was switched to offense, and some of most offensively cohesive moments for St. Edward soon followed.
"Our coach made an executive decision to pull me from net and let me have fun on the field," Gannon said.
But Willows withstood every St. Edward chance.