Sometimes it takes a bit of magic in order to win a playoff soccer match. Other times, it takes hard work and determination. Wednesday, it took grittiness on the part of St. Charles East to edge Glenbard North 1-0 in a Class 3A regional semifinal at St. Charles North.
The Saints (13-6-4) had a wide margin in chances to score and in possession time. But the only ball to cross the goal line came when Carly Pottle dispossessed a defender six minutes into the second half on the left side of the penalty area. Pottle moved briefly infield before she sent a shot into the right side netting.
"Darcy (Cunningham) and I were both going for it," Pottle said. "I had the better angle and I got the ball and shot it. It just barely made it in."
With only one goal in the match, the tension never relented. The Saints may have dominated, but were never able to relax knowing any mistake might lead to a Glenbard North scoring chance.
"We did the job we came to do," St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison said. "We got the win, we kept the shutout and most importantly, (Pottle) found a way to get the ball in the back of the net."
With the win, St. Charles East earns a rematch with St. Charles North on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The teams tied their regular season match 1-1.
"It's going to be a great game," Pottle said. "We haven't beaten North ever. We just tied them this year."
The match featured strong central midfield play from St. Charles East, notably from Amanda Hilton and Anna Corirosi. The pair linked play from defense to attack effectively on St. North's bumpy field. Balls came forward toward the central midfielders and were then sent to both wings before eventually moving back into the center of the field for efforts on goal.
"We try to play into the corners for crosses or we try to play through balls for the forwards to run onto," Hilton said. "It worked pretty well today and it's been working pretty well this season. So we want to keep it up and keep playing that way."
While not creating much offense of its own. Glenbard North (12-8-2) defended furiously.
"We talked at halftime about trying to generate some momentum going forward," Glenbard North coach Dave Stanfield said. "It's not easy because they press you and they're a physical team. But that's what you have to do. Our organization and competitive spirit kept us in the game for so long."
This season marks the first time the Panthers have finished above .500 in Stanfield's seven-year tenure with the school.
"We've come a long way," Stanfield said. "We're building toward something significant. We've obviously got a long way to go and we saw that today. But this has been a real team effort this season."
Many Panthers left the field in tears, a sign of how much they cared about the success of the program.
"I told them that if they could bond off the field, chances are it'll increase your chances of success on the field," Stanfield said. "They generally get along. We've got some good players, but it's been a real collective effort tonight."