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updated: 5/12/2014 6:47 PM

Girls soccer: Scouting the Class 1A Westminster Christian regional

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  • St. Edward's Allison Kruk celebrates the first of two first-half goals against Stillman Valley last year in a Class 1A sectional semifinal game in Harvard. St. Edward opens the postseason Tuesday against Elgin Academy at the Westminster Christian regional.

      St. Edward's Allison Kruk celebrates the first of two first-half goals against Stillman Valley last year in a Class 1A sectional semifinal game in Harvard. St. Edward opens the postseason Tuesday against Elgin Academy at the Westminster Christian regional.
    john Starks | Staff Photographer

By Steve Nichols

Class 1A Westminster Christian regionalThe pairings: Game 1) No. 1 St. Edward vs. No. 4 Elgin Academy, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday; Game 2) No. 2 Harvest Christian vs. No. 3 Westminster Christian 4:30 p.m. Wednesday; Game 3) Winner Game 1 vs Winner Game 2 Friday, 4:30 p.m.

Outlook: For the second-straight year, the Westminster regional is a carbon copy of the 2013 bracket. But it's no shock the 20-win Green Wave enter the all-Elgin regional as the top seed. While there's a different sentiment this time around since St. Edward's sights have been set on a state championship the Wave, who won the final Suburban Christian Conference title, aren't taking anything for granted despite a 10-1 win over the Hilltoppers in the teams' first game of the season and an 8-0 victory in last year's regional semifinal.

"Even the girls said, 'we can't look past any of them,' and they've all got potential to score," said Wave coach Tim Brieger, who was quick to praise the other regional coaches.

"Jason (Acres), (Kevin Talbot), Erik (Schwartz), they're all outstanding coaches who are probably going to come out with something we haven't seen, different game plans to play against us," Brieger said. "Everybody is going to give their best. We're definitely going to receive their best punch."

The Wave have also handled Harvest 4-0 and Westminster 3-0 this season. Forwards Allison Kruk (23 goals, 47 points), the school's career goals leader, and Chelsea Gnan (25 goals, 58 points) and midfielders Corey LePoudre (18 assists, 30 points) and Monica Ramirez (29 points) have garnered most of the headlines while Paige Dykstra in net has been rock solid with 16 shutouts. The Green Wave look more like a scoring tsunami and they don't look to change their game one bit.

"We want to play our game. Every time we step on the field we should look the same. Our style of play should reflect who we are," said Brieger, whose team came up one win short of reaching the state Final Four tournament last year.

But the underappreciated defense of St. Edward can lock teams down and some unsung heroes like forward Alex Zeller (40 points) and Megan Kearney, a defenseman center-mid, could be wild cards in this regional. "When (Megan's) on her game she creates horrible mismatches for the other teams because she's probably the fastest girl on the team," said Brieger. "Speed-wise, she can catch up to anybody. Teams can't compensate her coming from behind Monica because she plays behind Monica."

On the other side, Elgin Academy garnered just 1 win this season and has been outscored 68-10. Forward Veronica Clements (5 goals) scored the only goal for Elgin Academy in its loss against St. Edward on a penalty kick.

But what's an Elgin-themed regional without next door neighbors adding another postseason rivalry game to their tape? Harvest has Westminster's number (2-0) in the regular season this year but last year the Warriors came out on top 3-2 in the regional semi before falling to St. Edward for the title. For the first time in school history, the Lions enter the fray as a conference champion, winning 10 games and the Northeastern Athletic title.

"They're going in with a little bit of confidence," Lions coach Jason Acres said. "But we know some of the competition that we play isn't as strong as maybe what our regional shows."

Maybe Harvest can use its recent luck over Westminster to its advantage, as the Lions won both games this season by a combined scored of 5-0. But last year's loss counted the most and the Lions know they will get the Warriors' best shot despite their regular-season troubles.

"It's a healthy rivalry; it's very competitive, both teams are pretty evenly matched and it comes down to who wants it a little bit more," Acres said. "Who can concentrate a little bit more and really capitalize on those final chances, hopefully we'll be that team."

The Warriors will have to stop the combo of forwards Ellie Burzlaff and Morgan Lockwood, who together make the Lions' engine go. Burzlaff finished with 14 goals and 6 assists while Lockwood had 13 goals and 9 assists. But 10 times the combo has scored and assisted each other, and its occurred in the last 7 games. It's safe to say when those two hook up, good things happen.

"What's interesting is that they're both sharing the ball with one another, and creating opportunities for one another," Acres said. "It's pretty cool to see."

Another interesting item is that 6-2 goaltender Sydney Doby is out of the pipes and in is Rachel Oostdyk, a defender who has taken over the job since the St. Edward tournament. Doby has become a major catalyst, scoring 6 goals and notching 2 assists since April 14.

"We really don't lose anything in the goal because Rachel has done a fantastic job," Acres said. "It has brought out (Sydney) on the field and she's a beast of an athlete. We've put her on the field more and it's really given more momentum going forward."

Alexandria Rayappa, a center-mid defender with club soccer experience, has a good understanding of the game and solidifies the Lions' defense says Acres, whose team has a direct style of play and likes to hunt down the ball when it's lost. Taking advantage of chances is key as Burzlaff and Lockwood did so in the win over Westminster on April 25.

But Schwartz's team is looking forward to the challenge and midfielder Liz Meschewski has a flare for the dramatic. Her heroics last year -- 2 goals on a strained hamstring -- ousted the Lions and once again her hamstring isn't all too well.

"She's basically been playing on one leg this season, too. May be that's the key," Schwartz said lightheartedly. "We're going to have to play one of our best games to get past them. We know how they play, they know exactly how we play, unfortunately, they've come out on top (this year)."

The Warriors finished the season with a win and Whitney Woodhouse has delivered 2 goals and 1 assist in the Warriors' last 4 game, while Meschewski had 3 goals and 1 assist. Savannah Dutcher in net could be a major factor if she displays the protection in the net as she did last year.

Advancement: The winner of the Westminster Christian regional advances to the Richmond-Burton sectional and plays the winner of the Chicagoland Jewish regional Tuesday, May 20 at 7 p.m.

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