A full 90 minutes couldn't separate the East Suburban Catholic Conference girls soccer leaders as St. Viator and Nazareth played to a 1-1 draw in Arlington Heights on Monday afternoon.
Nazareth, Carmel and Lions remain tied for the top spot in the league standings.
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The teams traded goals in the second half, with St. Viator senior Lauren Falotico equalizing seven minutes after the Roadrunners (13-0-2, 3-0-2) stunned Lions with the game's first goal.
The teams had mostly battled between the 18s, with neither side creating more than just a few dangerous chances in a match which could have given the victor a big advantage in the conference hunt.
"We've only been in this conference a few years, and its always been Benet, Carmel and St. Viator, so for us to still be undefeated and in the thick of the race says a lot about our program and its players," said Nazareth coach John Nikchevich. "Our team is built on speed, but playing on real grass today was a real equalizer, and we struggled with it from time to time.
"Mike (Taylor) does a great job with his players and program, and we expected a tough match today, so to get a result like we did today, and to stay unbeaten is a very good thing."
Taylor wasn't as upbeat as his coaching counterpart.
"They were very strong and organized along the back and have had a very good season thus far," he said, "but we made a mistake in the back which cost us a goal, and our top players didn't step up and give us the type of leadership we needed in a game as important as this one, and that's disappointing to me."
After an uneventful opening quarter hour, the Lions (7-4-2, 4-0-2) came alive, thanks in part to the play of seniors Molly McMahon and Katie Gavin, and strikers Chloe Luthringshausen and Megan McCollum, who went on the offensive and helped keep the big backline of the visitors from going forward or building any type of attack out of the back.
Katie Driscoll rattled the bar from 25 yards to nearly surprise the Lions, who were enjoying the run of play before her wicked drive at 14 minutes. But that would be it for the Roadrunners after Driscoll forced keeper Morgan Hess into a save just three minutes from time.
Taylor brought on fresh legs regularly, and Nazareth seemed to tire as the half-hour approached. But even as the Lions continued to enjoy most of the play in the Roadrunners' end, St. Viator was unable to seriously test keeper Mary Kate Halm until the Falotico goal.
"Our midfield just didn't connect or produce much of anything going forward, and our forwards just didn't play as well as they should have when we had the ball in (their) end," said Taylor.
Still, the Lions, playing a 4-3-3 after the break, outworked and won most of the first and second balls in the middle of the park against their counterparts, who were playing with four in the middle. But it was Nazareth which struck first when Driscoll thumped a header past Hess after Hannah Guinn produced the helper.
Moments afterward, an alert Maria Petrillo tracked back to stop a potential 1-on-1 between Hess and Driscoll, and only the sophomore's terrific tackle prevented Nazareth from doubling its lead.
The Roadrunners' failure to clear following a St. Viator corner allowed Falotico to score in the 57th minute, and except for a snap shot from Luthringshausen in the 75th minute, both clubs were unable to generate much in the way of scoring chances.
Both five-minute extra periods were played at a frantic pace, but each ended without much headed toward either keeper.
"We'll keep plugging along, and I know we'll get better, but we've only got 9 games left after this one," said Taylor. "At some point, this team will have to begin to lift their play if we hope to be ready for the state playoffs in mid-May."
The Lions will continue play in the Naperville Invite this Thursday at Fremd, as they meet the Vikings at 7 p.m.
Barrington 2, Schaumburg 0: Sara Condon and Jenna Szczesny came up with second-half goals to lift the host Fillies to victory in Mid-Suburban West lay. Emily Decraene and Ellie Ackerman assisted on the goals.
Hannah Luedtke made 7 saves to earn the shutout; Brooke Schocker made 6 saves for the Saxons.
Elk Grove 3, Rolling Meadows 2 (OT): Kelli Hubly's overtime winner lifted the visiting Grens in Mid-Suburban East play.
Sarah Stram assisted on Hubly's goal and also scored in the first half. Kelly Naughton had the other goal for Elk Grove.
Ann Marie Lynch and Maggie Moran both had 1 goal and 1 assist for Meadows.