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updated: 5/23/2014 11:46 PM

St. Edward ices sectional championship

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  • St. Edward's soccer team celebrates its Class 1A sectional championship at Richmond-Burton on Friday night.

      St. Edward's soccer team celebrates its Class 1A sectional championship at Richmond-Burton on Friday night.
    Steve Nichols | Staff Photographer

By Steve Nichols

RICHMOND -- In a general sense, the Green Wave girls soccer team may badly need some ice tubs installed either at home or at St. Edward for the rest of the postseason.

But you sure as heck can't put their season on ice just yet.

When the Wave look back at the beating it took to win Friday's Class 1A Richmond-Burton sectional championship over a very physical Johnsburg 3-0, maybe the soreness, battle wounds and ice bags will be of something to be proud about.

In Johnsburg's frame of mind, it appeared the Wave (24-2) hadn't been challenged since it held every opponent scoreless this postseason by a combined mark of 24-0. Thus, the Skyhawks (10-10-1) came out with a relentless, physical attack that pushed St. Edward to the brink.

But St. Edward never left its frame of mind, and a team that had held 20 teams scoreless prior to Friday's final showed that its defense was never in doubt. Which is why the Wave, who made it 27-0 over their opponents in the postseason, made it an easy task to stop Skyhawks' standout forward Delaney Pruitt.

"We (had) to shut them down and we turned to (Megan Kearney)," said St. Edward coach Tim Brieger, who told Kearney, "'You're going to make a friend on Friday and I don't care how you do it.'"

Kearney and Pruitt may not trade friendships after this, but Kearney aced her assignment while the St. Edward defense of Kathleen Duffy, Casey Gredzieleski and Emily Witt allowed just 4 shots to get through to goalkeeper Paige Dykstra, who recorded her 21st shutout, a St. Edward record.

As for the offense, the 3 goals St. Edward scored by Monica Ramirez, Alex Zeller and Corey Lepoudre in the first half held up, giving the Wave their fourth-consecutive berth into the Elite Eight. The win also marked their 17th straight, but more importantly a return trip to Concordia University Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to play either Ridgewood or Chicago Latin, who square off for the Ridgewood sectional title at 1 p.m. Saturday.

"Emily, Casey and Duffy, we talked about it and worked on it (Thursday)," Brieger said of his defensive game plan. "Megan's marking Pruitt, we just have to squeeze in and shift, do not let Pruitt beat you. If (Amanda Cherwin) goes right, take her to the corner, Casey. And they did."

Johnsburg managed only 2 shots in each half while the Wave outshot the Skyhawks by 10 and managed 8 free kicks. Then there was Kearney's defense.

"We've allowed so little shots on Paige," Kearney said. "We're not just an offensive or defensive team, we're strong all around. And we take a lot of pride in that."

Once the Wave got past the physicality and figured things out, the offense rolled. Off a yellow card in the 21st minute, Duffy launched a dead ball about 40-yards out toward the net that ricocheted back to Ramirez in the midfield. She released a shot she didn't see go in that put the Wave up for good, 1-0.

"It dipped short and one of the Johnsburg girls tried to clear it and it went right at the top and I saw it and there was no one around the ball," Ramirez said. "I just shot it as hard as I could and I was on the ground and everyone was cheering and I just stood up and cheered. I didn't see it go in."

Goal 2 came on a beautiful cross from Chelsea Gnan to the left of the box that Zeller headed in in the 32nd minute for a 2-goal lead. Leopoudre concluded matters on a dead ball free kick from 35-yards out 2 minutes before halftime and Johnsburg didn't have an answer in the second half.

"I felt like the difference for us it was just, literally every aspect of the game they were just ahead in the first half, and they deserved their lead," Skyhawks coach Rob Eastland said. "Our goal was to really come out and try to go at them but I think they showed today they can really defend against a good team and good luck to them. They look like a team that could really go on do some damage."

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