A bend-but-don't-break philosophy served the St. Viator girls soccer team well Friday night in the Class 2A Lakes sectional final.
The top-seeded Lions' offense struck early against No. 2 Lake Forest, and the St. Viator defense held on in the end for an exciting 1-0 victory and a berth to the Barrington supersectional next Tuesday.
St. Viator (14-8-4) will face Belvidere sectional champion Freeport at 5 p.m., while the Scouts closed out their season with a 16-5-2 record.
The Lions had also posted a 1-0 victory at Lake Forest during the regular season. A victory over Freeport would send St. Viator into the Class 2A final four at North Central College next weekend.
There was some good pressure by the St. Viator offense early in the first half, and it really paid off as junior forward Chloe Luthringshausen made a strong charge down the left side of the field to set up what proved to be the winning goal for the Lions just 11:28 into the contest.
Luthringshausen worked her way down field before making a nice pass to senior teammate Katelyn Hammarlund, who in turn made a nice pass across to senior Katherine Petrovich.
Petrovich didn't miss the golden opportunity as she booted home a 10-yard goal into the left corner of the net and past Lake Forest goalkeeper Liz Clark with 28:32 remaining in the first half. Hammarlund had the lone goal in St. Viator's 1-0 win over Deerfield in the sectional semifinals.
"I thought we played well in the first half and we did what we had to do," said St. Viator coach Mike Taylor, whose team was the Class 2A state runner-up in 2010. "I thought in the first half we controlled the play and I think the goal that was disallowed in the second half should have counted."
With 30:25 to play, Clark was knocked down during a scramble for the ball and the ensuing goal by Petrovich was disallowed because of a St. Viator infraction on the play.
Clark had some difficult saves in the game, but St. Viator senior goalkeeper Morgan Hess came up even bigger starting with her save on Lake Forest's Kali Polich from point-blank range with 12:43 left in the first half.
Polich managed to break free from the Lions defenders and she got off a solid shot only to see Hess deflect the ball away with one hand before holding on for a huge save to maintain the 1-0 lead.
Lake Forest's Catherine Traut scored 4 goals in the Scouts' first three playoff games, but Hess came up with a big diving save on a crossing shot by Traut to preserve the 1-0 lead with 26:33 left.
"I was trying to keep cool because they're a tough team and it was well fought on both sides," said Hess, who battled through light rain for most of the second half. "I think we showed here how tough of a team we are and we want to make it to the (state) championship."
Lake Forest continued to play with desperation throughout the second part of the second half, although some very solid fundamental play by St. Viator made the Scouts retreat on numerous occasions.
A solid shot by Hammarlund sailed just over the crossbar with 22:11 to play before Hess came up with another big save from close range to her left against Lake Forest's Gabby Perino with 14:14 to go.
Hess added another 3 saves in the final stages of the game as the Scouts kept up the offensive pressure as well as possible until the Lions were able to finally run out the clock and begin their postgame celebration.
"The second 25 minutes of the second half, their offense gave us some problems and our defense bends -- but it doesn't break," said Taylor. "She (Hess) is not afraid of contact and I think that is her strength."
Sophomore Maria Petrillo was one of many St. Viator players to provide great defensive support in front of Hess while midfielder Erin Renee Murphy was aggressive for the Lions at the offensive end.