South Elgin recovered after trailing by a goal to register a stunning 2-1 victory over No. 5 seed Elk Grove in Class 3A regional semifinal play in the second match Tuesday evening at Conant.
Second-half goals from Andrea Walsh, the game-winner coming in sensational fashion in the 76th minute, helped send the No. 11 seeed Storm (8-8-2) through to the regional final this Friday against the host Cougars (11-4-5), who overwhelmed Streamwood 8-0 in the opener.
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"I can finally take a deep breath," said relieved but thrilled Storm coach Tiffany Dishler, who watched her club get rewarded for a dominant 10 minutes of play when the Walsh, a senior, drove her side volley high into the net after meeting up with a superb cross from Savanah Uvegas to break up what had been a 1-1 match.
"I just ran to a spot and was wide open, and Savanah gave me a great ball, and it was pretty easy after that," said the Storm captain.
Trailing the Grens (8-9-0) after Sarah Stram's goal at 38 minutes, the Storm saw several quality chances turned away with terrific efforts of Grens keeper Melissa Solorio, who helped keep her opponents out of the back of the net when the Storm were pouring forward in search of the equalizer in the second period.
"Their keeper was very strong for them -- she made a couple of great saves to keep us out of the net -- but we kept working, knowing that last year they knocked us out in the regionals," said Walsh.
"Our work rate and energy was up and down all night," said Elk Grove coach Dan Klaus, "and if we had played with the same sense of urgency that we did leading up to our first goal, and late when we were trying to get even, maybe the result is a different one.
"But make no mistake, South Elgin was the better team tonight, and were deserving of their victory."
The Uvegas-Walsh combo worked some magic just after the break to help the Storm draw even at 49 minutes.
In the final minutes, Elk Grove's Kelly Naughton and Nikki Zaino did their best to generate scoring chances.
But the Storm back line of Anna Tracy, Natalie Castro, Veronika Noyszewski and Corinne Hildebrandt, in tadem with fearless freshman keeper Jackie DeLaMora, helped complete a milestone victory for Dishler's club.
"Jackie played a senior out there, and in just her third start of the season for us," said Dishler. "She doesn't play like a freshman, that's for sure."