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updated: 5/1/2013 10:07 PM

Conant stays with it, tops Hoffman Estates

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By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent

Time might be running out on Conant in its quest for a Mid-Suburban West title, but the Cougars continue to play well -- and win.

The Cougars hit visiting Hoffman Estates for 5 first-half goals, then cruised to a 6-0 victory on Wednesday to celebrate their senior sight on a high note.

The victory keeps Jason Franco's club slim hopes alive in the race for the top spot in the MSL West after division-leading Barrington grabbed 3 vital points in a 2-0 win over Prospect.

"We need a miracle in order to get past Barrington and into the Soccer Cup next week, but even if we don't I am still really proud of the fact that we were in the race until the final week of season, which is something not too many expected us to do," said Franco.

The Cougars have a 6-1-3 MSL record and 21 points. The Fillies are just 1 point clear at 22 points at 7-2-1, with Palatine left on its schedule. Conant finishes up against Buffalo Grove on Saturday.

"It's always nice to win on senior night, but I have to admit we were a little nervous after the opening 10 minutes, when Hoffman Estates (1-12-1, 1-8-0) came out and put us under pressure," said Franco.

The visitors played nowhere what one might expect from an 11-loss club, and in the opening exchanges coach Ralph Tooren's side showed a glimpse of what the future might be with some inventive and entertaining soccer, led by Natalina Pena and several freshmen and sophomores who at times played like four-year veterans.

"We opened up so well, then gave up that own-goal, then another just a few minutes later," said Tooren, "and then we hung our heads, and Conant just took advantage of our youth and inexperience."

One way to measure the improvement at Hoffman Estates is goals allowed. The Hawks have allowed 30 so far, compared to 81 a season ago.

"The girls can play, and they have an idea of what to do going forward," said Tooren. "But we just cannot finish, and until we do, we're going to continue to struggle."

An own-goal after a Leah Celarek corner took the wind out of the Hawks at seven minutes before 3 goals in the next 10 minutes sent the visitors reeling.

Celarek beat keeper Francesca Van to a 50-50 and found enough pace to double the lead at 11 minutes. Then a persistent Bianca Madonia was rewarded for her energy and work rate when she fired in the Cougars' third goal of the evening three minutes later.

Just moments after being brought on for the first time in the match, Rachel Raymer drove a long ball into the far corner to increase the advantage to 4.

"We haven't scored a lot this year either, so it was good to put a few into the back of the net, and relax a little while getting a lot of our players quality minutes," Franco said.

Van, who was strong for the Hawks between the sticks even in defeat, made a marvelous point-blank stop on Sidney O'Keefe when she ran down a long, wind-aided punt from keeper Haley Anderson. Unfortunately for Van, a rebound off her save spilled free in the box where an opportunistic O'Keefe finished.

"Frankie (Van) is going to be a very good keeper for us during the next four years, I can assure you of that," suggested Tooren, a former keeper himself and an off-season guru at the position for area club players.

The Hawks got into the game a little bit more after the break, playing through Pena regularly and getting teammates Michelle Montes de Oca and Ale Alonsa involved. Meanwhile, sophomore Jessica Miller and the frosh duo of Jennie Nailor and Becca Salerno tightened things up along the back for Tooren.

Drew Wentzel ended the scoring on the night with a 22-yard free kick thunderbolt in the 63rd minute.

Schaumburg 7, Wheeling 0: Riley Williams and Amanda Haaland both scored twice and Amanda Kelly had 1 goal and an assist as the visiting Saxons did all of their scoring in the first half. Brittany Reinhart and Jasmin Lisowski also scored for Schuamburg, and goalkeeper Melissa Ardagh made 2 save to get the shutout.

Buffalo Grove 3, Palatine 2: Visiting Palatine scored twice in the second half, but it wasn't quite enough to spoil Buffalo Grove's unbeaten season as the Bison improved to 19-0-1 overall and 9-0-0 in the MSL.

Allie Ingham had 2 goals for Buffalo Grove, Skylar Groth had 1. Groth, Jessica Kovach and Megan Gardner has assists.

For Palatine, Michelle Raymond scored with an assist from Gina Falato, and Erin Mayer scored with an assist from Morgan Radtke.

Hersey 1, Elk Grove 0: Senior Sarah Mulroe had the game's only goal in the second half to lift Hersey.

Barrington 2, Prospect 0: Molly Pfeiffer and Jenna Szczesny had first-period goals and Kate Luedke made 3 saves in goal as the host Fillies improved to 7-2-1 in MSL play.

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