Saturday's soccer match with Libertyville was worth the wait not only for Katie McCullough but all of her Lake Zurich teammates.
McCullough recently returned to the field from knee surgery. She scored the game-winning goal Saturday, as the host Bears pulled out a 3-1 victory over the Wildcats that gave the Bears the North Suburban Lake Division title.
Lake Zurich (7-6-3, 4-1-1), which will host Vernon Hills (9-3-2) in the NSC championship game Tuesday, scored a pair of second-half goals.
McCullough has endured a couple of major injuries in the last three years. She tore the meniscus on her right knee as a sophomore, then came back and played defense last year. Last off-season, McCullough fractured and dislocated her kneecap.
Talk about scary. She had surgery on Halloween.
Her goal Saturday broke a 1-1 tie in the 64th minute. It was set up by a Jordan Jackson free kick.
"I was always told to run in after the ball," McCullough said after scoring her first goal in two years. "l saw the ball come free and was able to pop it with my right toe."
Meaghan Gelinas added an insurance goal in the 70th minute off an assist from Tara Kennedy. Lake Zurich's Blake Coughenour opened the scoring on a header from Kennedy's assist in the 20th minute.
Libertyville (10-5, 3-3) tied the game at 1-1 when Jessica Stanley finished a shot off a touch pass from Sam Marsh in the 60th minute.
"All the credit goes to the girls," Lake Zurich coach Michael Castronova said. "Libertyville is a great team. It was a great challenge.
"We knew what we had to do this week," he added. "We had to play three big games (Mundelein, Lake Forest and Libertyville). The girls have worked hard all season. They seem to have a tough mentality."