Bri Carlson proved to be equal parts prophet and hero.
The Carmel Catholic senior boldly predicted before the match that her club would be victorious. And hours later, she personally assured that outcome by striking in the game-winner as the Corsairs defeated St. Viator 1-0 Saturday afternoon in Arlington Heights to stay atop the East Suburan Catholic Conference with a perfect 3-0-0 record.
The 53rd-minute goal also functioned as a nice milestone for Carmel coach John Halloran, who netted his 150th career victory.
"There's not much to say except it was a great win for this team, and especially the seniors," said Halloran, who has watched the seniors from this team struggle against their traditional conference rival the last three seasons. "Bri stood up before everyone on the bus and said we were going to win today, then backed up her promise with the game-winning goal. It can't much better than that, can it?"
"Coach reminded us that we were 0-2-1 against (St. Viator)," said Carlson, with a smile, "and that we were kind of running out of time against them. It was important for us to end that, and it was also important to win, because it means we've beaten two big teams in conference now, Benet and St. Viator."
The pre-match strategy from St. Viator coach Mike Taylor was to weather the expected storm from the Corsairs (6-0-0, 3-0-0). And when the Lions (3-2-0, 2-1-0) did that despite a couple of good chances generated by Carmel, his fears were eased somewhat.
"We knew they were going to really bring it at us, but I thought for the most part, we handled it pretty well," said Taylor. "But when you have a team as young as ours who hasn't really played in a game as big as this, mistakes and poor decisions are going to happen. And we made our share of them, especially along the back."
St. Viator had trouble defending Carlson, Annie DiVenere, Meegan Johnston and Elizabeth Bream in the early stages. In spite of that, the Lions got the first good chance when Chloe Lutheringshausen came up the left side before rattling the post from 18 yards.
Lions keeper Samantha Stanley turned a Carlson header over the bar moments later. Another Carlson blast crashed off the frame to keep things goal-less at 20 minutes.
The sequence ignited the Corsairs' attack, and for the next quarter-hour they were in the Lions' end, threatening to score. A timely tackle stopped DiVenere from getting in on Stanley, and Johnston just missed with a free kick from the edge.
The last two minutes before intermission saw a loose ball spill near the 6, but DiVenere, Carlson and Johnston were unable to get enough pace on their shots, allowing Stanley to finally to collect and secure the area.
St. Viator's Lauren Kohn took a nice ball over the top and got free of her defender, but her shot went wide to end the first period.
"Both teams had their chances, and maybe it could have been 2-2 or 4-4," said Taylor. "But in the end, we didn't finish -- Carmel did, and that's the way this game goes sometimes."
Kayla Handel guided a nice ball out of the back to Carlson, who beating a couple of defenders before finishing past Stanley with a sublime touch.
St. Viator's Erin Renee Murphy, who dominated at midfield for long periods during the first half, sent a well-paced serve into the box, where teammate Michelle Trovato met it. But Carmel keeper Jenna Bauer held onto the ball despite a rough ride to end a scoring chance at 72 minutes.
The Corsairs remained sound defensively over a frantic final eight minutes to seal the win.
"We did some good things with our attack, but in the end, it was Leah Lach, Clair Ogrinc, Emily Helle and Kayla Handel in the back that kept things under control, and St. Viator out of the back of our net," said Halloran.
For St. Viator, a season limited thus far by weather begins to hit full speed beginning Monday, as the Lions play the first of 8 games in 13 days, most of them as part of the upcoming Naperville Central Invite.
"We will see some very strong teams in the next week and a half, and then will have an idea of were we really stand after that," said Taylor. "Carmel got us today, and our focus is still on winning the conference. But it's all about getting ourselves ready for a long postseason run, and that's what these upcoming games will help to prepare us for."