It doesn't get much more emotional for a team than it did for Lake Park on Tuesday night.
The Lancers were hosting a Class 3A regional semifinal and with the season on the line were facing one of the best Glenbard North girls soccer teams in at least the past 10 years.
They were also playing for teammate Lexi Ruffolo's sister Nicole, who was hit by a car while walking near Purdue University in late April and remains hospitalized.
In a hard-fought battle that saw several stoppages and five yellow cards issued, the Lancers prevailed 3-2.
Lake Park (15-5-1) came out strong, creating a few chances in the opening minutes, but left the Panthers' Ashley Pogue open in the game's sixth minute, and Pogue found the right corner of the net.
"The girls went down quickly, but they responded right back," Lake Park coach Chris Fruehling said. "They stayed with it and remained focused despite this being such a big night and the season on the line."
Lake Park's all-time leading scorer Megan Lindbert knotted the score at 1-1 and then put the Lancers ahead for good with 12:33 left before halftime. On the go-ahead score she received the ball and dribbled a great distance down the left sideline before successfully finding the back of the net.
"The coaches have been telling me all year to take them 1-on-1, but I don't like doing it," she said. "My main goal was getting it across low, but the defender kept going and let me go and then the goalie went down. It just went into the back corner. I don't know how, but it did."
Glenbard North (11-8-2) had its fair share of chances to score the equalizer in the second half as Jennifer Duffy had a decent shot on goal and Pogue had a few opportunities, but none came to fruition.
It got even worse when Lindbert, who was just trying to send the ball downfield late, saw her kick turn into a through-ball that junior Jessica Berkshire ran down and fired into the net with only 16:21 left in the contest.
"We had trouble with their direct style of play, but I thought we possessed it the whole way through, but made a mistake on the throughball," Glenbard North coach David Stanfield said. "But, you know, these girls did incredible. In my nine years this was our best season and we're still very young."
Pogue pulled the Panthers to within 3-2 with 3:49 remaining, but they wouldn't get another shot on goal before the buzzer.
Lake Park advances to Friday's regional title where it will host Batavia.
The teams, fellow students, fans and general public raised $1,300 during the match for the Ruffolo family. Those willing to help the Ruffolo family can visit: http://fundly.com/help-support-nicole-ruffolo?ft_pid=bsz64sqx