Neuqua Valley didn't waste any time.
The Wildcats didn't score off the opening kickoff -- although they tried -- but they did find the back of the net less than two minutes later. They notched a 3-1 victory at Saturday's Class 3A Bolingbrook regional final to eliminate Naperville Central.
"That was the plan, to get the goals early. Just get the lead and just finish it off," said sophomore central midfielder Lauren Ciesla. "... It really gave us momentum and it slowed them down."
Ciesla scored that first goal off a Katie Ciesiulka assist.
"I know that when they take it down to the end I just want to get in the box and just have the opportunity to get ready to score, and Katie Ciesiulka did a really nice job getting to the end line and finding me in the middle," Ciesla said. "It just happened that I was open and not marked, and I just finished it and that was it."
It's been a tough season for Ciesla, who recently returned from an ankle injury that forced her to the sideline for a few weeks.
"Getting Lauren healthy really helps us in the midfield and makes some adjustments," Wildcats coach Joe Moreau said.
In case the No. 4-seeded Wildcats (16-3-1) didn't have enough momentum already, they added to it a minute before halftime, Ciesiulka finishing from an odd angle after winning the ball in the penalty area.
"That's a tough ball to put in from that angle," Moreau said.
The third Neuqua Valley goal came just 20 seconds into the second half. Gianna Dal Pozzo stole the ball and dribbled toward goal, slotting the ball across the goalmouth to Ciesla, who needed just one touch for her second goal of the game.
"The late goal at the end of the first half was the real difference in the game," Redhawks coach Ed Watson said. "The goal right off the kickoff at the start of the second half certainly didn't help. But the major difference is in the opportunities that we had, we couldn't capitalize. The limited opportunities that they had, they did capitalize. I thought our goalkeeper (Abby Hershik) played pretty well."
The Redhawks, the fifth seed in the sectional but one of the best teams in the state, got a goal back in the 75th minute when senior Victoria Ellis found the back of the net.
The Wildcats will meet top-seeded Naperville North in Wednesday's sectional semifinals.
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