When Jason Franco took over as the head coach of the Conant girls soccer team 9 years ago, he gave his team a goal: win a regional title.
On Friday night on their home field in the Class 3A Conant regional finals, the No. 4 seed Cougars met that goal for the seventh consecutive time by defeating No. 11 seed South Elgin 2-0.
Junior Drew Wentzel scored on the game's first shot five minutes into play for the game winner, and sophomore Leah Celarek had the insurance goal five minutes into the second half.
"It feels incredible," Wentzel said of winning the title. "Just having something that's so Conant-ish is great. We expect to win our regional every year."
Wentzel's goal came off a 23-yard free kick which found the top right corner of the net, but the first half featured few shots from either team and both sides had nearly even time of possession.
Celarek, who had a hat trick in the semifinals, gave Conant (12-4-5) the 2-0 lead after sophomore teammate Sidney O'Keeffe played the ball up to her to set up a one-on-one shot against Storm (8-9-2) freshman keeper Jackie De La Mora.
De La Mora came up with several big saves, most from Celarek and O'Keeffe shots, and she finished with 8 saves for the game.
Defenders Wentzel, senior Kayla Severinsen and sophomores Katie Lomas and Stephanie Buga along with sophomore goalie Haley Anderson (5 saves) recorded Conant's 13th shutout of the season. The Storm had only been shut out once during the regular season.
"Our defense had played well all year," Franco said. "Credit South Elgin though. They didn't quit. Their goalie made some great saves, but I was happy with the way we defended them."
One of the keys according to Wentzel was containing speedy Storm forward Savanah Uveges, a junior. Uveges had a couple shots on goal, and the Storm's best scoring chance 15 minutes into the second half when freshman Corinne Hildebrandt played a ball to Delaney Kelleher who took a solid shot which was met with a diving stop from Anderson.
"Across the field, I was really happy with the effort from all of my players," said South Elgin coach Tiffany Disher. "I think despite losing 2-0, we showed Conant that we weren't a team to take lightly. They had to fight for that win."
The Storm will graduate just three seniors: Andrea Walsh, Natalie Castro and Kaity Santelli.
Conant will play in Tuesday's Hoffman Estates sectional semifinal against Saturday's winner of the DeKalb regional finals between top-seeded St. Charles North and No. 9 seed West Chicago. St. Charles North defeated Conant 2-0 earlier in the season.