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updated: 4/12/2014 11:05 PM

Geneva makes history at Augsburg-Drach invite

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By Darryl Mellema
Daily Herald Correspondent

Through any soccer match, there are mistakes, and most are forgiven as they don't result in anything more than a throw-in or a goal kick or just a lost possession that ends without damage.

There are, of course, the other kind of mistakes, those that result in shots on-goal, dangerous moments and goals.

On an afternoon when Geneva and St. Charles East battled extreme wind as well as each other in the final match of the Augsburg-Drach Invitational, one Saints defensive error led to Geneva's Courtney Lardas receiving the ball just outside the penalty area 12 minutes before halftime.

Lardas moved briefly toward goal, then unleashed a low, strong shot that forced Saints keeper Kendra Sheehan to make a strong diving, parrying save. The ball rebounded to the top of the penalty area, where Mary Landry met the ball and shot into the now vacant net.

That goal was enough to give Geneva a 1-0 victory and for the Vikings to claim the invitational title for the first time in coach Megan Owens' seven years with the school and, therefore, the first time in the career of all this year's roster players.

"My girls worked hard," Owens said. "It was a battle. Both sides fought hard and they left it all out there."

Entering the match, Geneva (5-1-1) needed only to avoid defeat to win the tournament title. The Vikings entered the third day of competition with 13 points and the Saints sat on 12 -- making the teams' match the deciding match for the championship trophy.

But at this early point in the season, victories matter far more than trophies and style of play matters just as much as any win. Geneva's strength is in its back line -- and that group was strong throughout the match.

"We knew with the wind. That was the factor we had to adjust to today," Owens said. "We knew that with them having the wind in the second half, they were going to have a lot more opportunities. We did play very defensive in the second half, which worked ended up working for us. We switched our formation to be more defensive to counteract the wind factor."

None of those players played better than keeper Sam Hauser. The senior made a series of saves and cleaned up every loose ball that came into the penalty area.

"You just have to be into the game the entire time," Hauser said. "We ended East's season last year and we knew they were going to come out really strong. They have some great players in the midfield, so we had to pay attention to that too."

Hauser's best save came 13 minutes into the second half. St. Charles East had a free kick 25 yards from goal just to the left of the penalty arc. Darcy Cunningham took that free kick low toward the right post. It caromed off players just outside the goal, and Hauser only reacted when the ball was yards from the net. But she reached the ball and held it.

"That was scary," Hauser said. "Tory (Herbst) was right there and she kicked it but they were right there too. I saw it at the last second. Thank God I got on that."

A strong wind from the south played its part in the match. Landry's goal was scored with the wind at her back and St. Charles East attacked relentlessly in the second half with the wind at its back.

The Saints (4-1-2) never stopped working to score. After a nondescript opening 20 minutes, both teams began to increase their tempo. Sophie Jendrzeczyk took an Amanda Hilton pass with a quarter-hour left in the half and forced a save from Hauser, the closest either team had come to scoring at that point.

"When people see the score line and see it was a 1-0 game, they'll think it was a close game," St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison said. "Let's be honest. In terms of possession and ball play and the way soccer's meant to be played, we were on a different level. The ball's never left the ground for us.

Landry's goal was the next significant event in the match, but the Saints continued searching for openings. Cunningham fed Anna Corirosi 6 minutes before halftime and Corirosi's strong shot missed the net. Three minutes later, Cunningham had a shot saved by Hauser.

"A breakdown by us at the back has cost us the game," Jennison said. "As far as I'm concerned, that's not a game we should be coming out losing. I think that's a game we should be winning."

Jennison paid tribute to Hauser's heroics.

"Their keeper's had a great day," Jennison said. "Our keeper's had to do one thing, and that's pick the ball out of the net. Their keeper's made some great saves."

Needing to score two goals in the second half, the Saints were held scoreless and Jennison knew his team started the match knowing it needed to score in order to win not only the match but the invitational.

"At the end of the day, we didn't put the ball in the back of the net, so we can't have any complaints about the score line," Jennison said.

"But in terms of the way we played, we definitely did the right things putting the ball in there. We've got to say 'fair play.' We've got to hold our hands up and say that if we don't score, we don't deserve to win. But our style on the field is definitely going to get results."

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