Lauren Kohn proved the difference between St. Viator and Vernon Hills, thanks to her second goal at 64 minutes in the Lions' 2-1 victory against Class 2A girls soccer regional host Vernon Hills on Friday.
The victory put the Lions (12-7-2) in Wednesday's Grayslake North sectional semifinal, where they will meet either Deerfield or Crystal Lake Central at 6:30.
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"It was your basic winning ugly tonight," said St. Viator coach Mike Taylor, who watched his team take a 1-goal advantage into the break when Kohn converted her PK after a foul inside the box helped put the junior on the spot in the 19th minute.
"That was a tough one to give up," said Vernon Hills coach Vince DeLucea, "but I really liked the way the girls fought back from that PK to equalize and get themselves back into this game."
"We started a little slow tonight, but we got ourselves back into the game, especially in the second half. But credit St. Viator, who came back right away and worked hard to earn that second goal. The girls never gave up tonight, just as they have the entire season for me and the coaching staff."
A cautious start to the match was broken up by a well-aimed blast from the Cougars' Kristen Guglielmi.
Then St. Viator's Michelle Travato took a ball out of the back and raced up the left side with speed, before a foul gave Kohn the opportunity to drive in the first goal of the game.
The game opened up during the last 10 minutes of the first period, with Travato going over the bar with an open goal available and Kohn firing wide on the turn as the Lions began to enjoy more of the run of play.
With Kaitlin Gramins now operating deeper in the Lions' end, Vernon Hills (13-5-2) created two great opportunities as the half came to a close. The first came after Gramins was fouled, which put Nathalie Orozco over a free kick from 25 yards. The junior's bending attempt was saved by Sabina Raslawski.
Moments later, the best chance of the half came when Alexis Harte and Gramins pried open the Lions, and if not for an alert backline, perhaps one of the two blocked shots in close might have ended up in the back of the net. "We got a little sloppy toward the end of the half, and again leading up to their goal, but we got it back right away and that was a big positive for us tonight," said Taylor.
Guglielmi's engine never stopped running before she unleashed the equalizer high into the upper right corner in the 59th minute, but a slight breakdown by the Cougars allowed Molly Murphy to find Megan McCollum with an early ball up the left side.
The senior put a nice ball into the mix, and Kohn did the rest as she somehow tucked the ball just inside the near post two minutes later.
St. Viator's Murphy and Kayne Stanley, who had a nice work rate all night at midfield, dropped back even deeper in the final 10 minutes as the Lions looked to protect the lead. Except for a block from Maggie Leazer on a left-footed blast inside the edge by Amy Andrea, the Cougars were unable to get anything dangerous toward Raslawski.
"I thought our game management was much better than of late, and in the end, we found a way to win a game when we didn't play the best soccer we could," said Taylor.
For DeLuca, it was a heartbreaking end to a wonderful season.
"We lost a lot of key players from last year, but we had so many come in and make their mark to help this team have a terrific season, and a lot of great moments along the way," DeLuca said. "I am so proud of all of them."