Lauren Gierman's stunning first-half double combined with sheer defensive determination from her teammates took No. 3 seed Hersey into the sectional final after a 3-1 defeat of No. 2 seed Carmel on Tuesday night in a Class 3A sectional semifinal at Mundelein.
It will be an all-Mid Suburban League final as the Huskies (14-4-5) prepare to meet top seed and MSL East champ Buffalo Grove, which upended Glenbrook South 3-1 in the afternoon opener at Mundelein.
Gierman's 50-yard, wind-aided driving freekick went up and over keeper Jenna Bauer at four minutes. Some 18 minutes later, the all-state candidate struck again from nearly the same spot, just inside the mid-line, to give the Huskies a 2-goal advantage, while sending the East Suburban Catholic Conference champs reeling.
"I could really feel for their keeper with the wind and bright sun in her face, there's so much pressure in a game like this, and there's nobody behind to help you out," said a compassionate Morgan Harris, the Huskies' keeper. "But when the first, and then the second goal went in from Lauren the way they did, I just about fell down (because) I was so happy. And now we get another chance at Buffalo Grove in the final."
"That wasn't the same team you saw last Friday at Fremd, was it?" asked Carmel coach John Halloran. "That game took so much out of us, and if you saw how we were limping around the day after at training, I knew it would take us a lot longer to recover than just a few days. So when we went down 1-0, then 2-0, we looked rattled and got away from what we do. And after that, we were just chasing the lead the rest of the night."
The 2-goal advantage also proved to be a tremedous tactical advantage for the Huskies, who were able to sit back a bit and focus on stopping the Corsairs' Meegan Johnston.
Hersey coach Brad Abel was well aware of just exactly potent the four-year standout can be.
"Meegan is a terrific talent," Abel said. "She can shoot from long distance, hits a great dead ball, has great pace, and she can put you under with her long throws. She had a bunch of long throws, which we did a pretty good job on, but we never let her get time and space to unload something on frame. So getting that lead really helped our overall game plan very much."
Gierman helped create the Huskies' third goal, and perhaps the game's decisive score, when she started a counter, ran and carried up the center channel, before laying a lovely ball off to Katilyn Smetana, who buried her shot past a diving Bauer at 29 minutes.
Searching for inspiration, Erin Johnston gave the Corsairs (19-2-0) what they were looking for when she pounced on a loose ball and drove home the lone goal for her club from 8 yards.
"We had a chance to get another before the break, and a couple more in the second half, when we played so much better, but on this night, it might have been our worst effort of the season, and sometimes that's just the way it goes," said Halloran.
Halloran's reference to his club's two quality chances saw Harris turn Caitlin Murphy's attempt around the post at 64 minutes. Then at 80 minutes, Harris made a point-blank save against Bri Carlson, who was put through by Johnston.
"Buffalo Grove really handed it to us in that first week of the season (5-0) so it's great to be playing them once again," said Gierman.