A 3-goal explosion within six minutes was the undoing Saturday afternoon for Elk Grove's girls soccer team as the Grenadiers lost their regular-season finale to visiting Hononegah 4-2.
Next up for the Grens (5-11-0) will be an MSL crossover match on Tuesday before opening up at No. 3 Geneva when the state tournament series begins.
"We looked a little tired in that first half, but I am still real proud of the effort we gave, especially after playing our second game in less than 24 hours," said Elk Grove coach Dan Klaus, who had just three extra players on the bench, with three players away at a state music event, two of them full-time starters.
The visiting Indians (11-5-0), who earned the No. 2 seed at the Rockford Auburn sectional, nearly got off to a perfect start as Elk Grove allowed consecutive corners from Jenn Gigot to fall freely inside the 6. If not for Alyson Czyzewski, who took both balls off the line, it would have quickly been 1-0 in the first minute of play.
"Not a real good start for us," admitted Klaus.
The Indians were the more dominanat side for the first half hour, thanks in part to some wonderful play from Kelsie Berg in the middle of the park along with teammate Madison Dunker.
A nicely played combination from Berg to Jen McCarville forced a save from keeper Abby Smola. Klaus started his usual keeper, senior Melissa Solorio, up top in her final home game.
The Grens' bench howled its disappointment when it appeared thei leading scorer Nikki Zaino was hauled down inside the box in the 31st minute. But 60 seconds later, senior Rachel Anderson added more woe for the home side when her composed finish gave the Indians the lead.
Zaino swiftly equalized in the 32nd minute, shedding her mark before going past keeper Michaela Eggers to send the match into halftime tied at 1-1.
Zaino and her teammates started much more brightly than the visitors after intermission and enjoyed most of the run of play with Cassie Slattery combining with Zaino up top to create some trouble. The Grens' midfield was also winning more balls and Elk Grove was able to get numbers forward in the attack.
"I thought up until their first goal of the second half, we finally started to play a lot better and with more confidence -- but that goal, and the two others kind of deflated us a little bit," said Zaino, who will attend Taylor Univesity next fall.
The Grens failed to closely mark Berg inside the box, and she ended up redirecting a header past Solorio. A minute later, Brynn Jacobi doubled the Indians' advantage when she thumped a header into the back of the net from Dunker.
Dunker converted her spot kick after a hand ball in the box in the 60th minute before Zaino pulled back that goal with her 10th of the season.
"This is a very young team with so many freshmen and sophomores getting plenty of playing time in their first year on the varsity, so they should be very good next year," said Zaino.
"It was a good win for us to get, but we still have to work a lot on our decision-making, which at times has been our downfall. That's something to be expected with so many first-year players," said Hononegah coach Jeremy Aldrich, a former star at Butler University before spending two seasons in Major League Soccer.