Postseason performances sometimes require extra motivation. Or courage.
If you didn't know that Westminster Christian midfielder Liz Meschewski played on a strained left hamstring Wednesday afternoon, you wouldn't have thought otherwise.
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But the junior, who somehow aggravated it in practice earlier this week, played regardless and delivered a gutty performance that will be hard to forget. Her 2 goals and 1 assist in an 8-minute span in the first half aided No. 3 Westminster Christian's 3-2 Class 1A regional semifinal girls soccer win over No. 2 Harvest Christian.
Meschewski completely dominated the middle of the field, assisting on a goal she should have put in and then scoring the last 2 goals that became vital in the Warriors' (7-8-1) advancement to the regional final on Saturday at 11 a.m. against top-seeded St. Edward.
Harvest Christian (5-7-3) rallied to score twice in the onset of the second half, which put heavy pressure on the Warriors in the final 32 minutes.
"We've been saying it all week it's going to take grit, desire and passion and that's what Liz showed out there," said Warriors coach Erik Schwartz. "Even though it hurt, she kept on going and you saw three goals right there, boom, boom, boom. And that was it.
"She did it on a bum hamstring, she was playing on one leg. She dug deep."
Both teams traded shot for shot for the first 30 minutes, but the middle became gold in the 32nd minute for Meschewski after Westminster found openings.
Meschewski wrestled for a ball at midfield on a pass, raced downfield and put a shot on goal that initially missed. The rebound and putback was no good either but Lindsey Vanden Bos was there to clean it up for a 1-0 lead.
"After that goal I was kind of frustrated, I knew that I had to step it up and kind of take it upon myself to get through the defense and there was just the one sweeper that I had to get past and that's what my focus was; get past her and once I did that, it came naturally," said Meschewski. "My teammates were making really good passes to the middle and I had to step it up and get in front of (Harvest)."
Once Meschewski passed the Lions' defense again moments later, she scored back-to-back, carbon copy goals in the final 6 minutes, imposing her strength and will over the middle to put Westminster ahead 3-0.
"Problem in the first half, we did not mark tight on Liz, she got through, past our stopper and it was a one-on-one breakaway for goals number two and three," said Harvest Christian coach Basilio Salazar.
Harvest revamped its defense in the second half and 3 minutes in, Ellie Burzlaff found the back of the net to make it 3-1. Then off her pass from the right sideline, Burzlaff helped Brittany Salazar cut Westminster's lead to 1 with her goal with 32 minutes remaining.
"We gained a lot more confidence and we were able to connect better, be more physical with it," Brittany Salazar said.
Harvest threatened with 2 minutes when Salazar had a chance to tie on a give-and-go just to the side of the right post. But goalkeeper Savannah Dutcher (7 saves) made her biggest save of the night to preserve the win.
"It never fails, they always make the great saves when (it counts). I was aiming for the inside post but she had a nice save," Salazar said.
Westminster will play Schaumburg Christian tonight without Meschewski, as she rests her hamstring. But the focus remains on St. Edward.
"They're a really good team and I know that we have to keep up the defense," Meschewski said. "The offense will come. Defense is important and I trust my girls will be there back there, but defense is definitely key. We can't let them get any open shots."