One of the best seasons in the history of the West Aurora girls soccer program came to an abrupt end Friday night in the Class 3A Plainfield North regional championship game.
The eighth-seeded Blackhawks ran into a skilled, attacking Plainfield North team playing on its home field. After a bit of a slow start, the Tigers hit their stride, opening up a 4-0 halftime lead, scoring early to start the second half and twice late for a 7-0 victory.
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No. 2 seed Plainfield North (20-2-3) advances to the Class 3A Naperville North sectional semifinals Wednesday against Metea Valley, a 3-1 winner over Oswego in double overtime Friday. Waubonsie Valley plays Naperville North in the other semifinal.
The Tigers' only losses this year are 2-1 to Waubonsie Valley, the No, 1 seed in the sectional, and to Glenbrook South.
"Those final four teams in the sectional are going to be tough," Tigers coach Jane Crowe said. "All of them are capable of winning the sectional."
No. 8 seed West Aurora (13-7-2) had a couple chances early for freshman Katharine Stephens and senior Samantha O'Brien that they weren't able to turn into goals.
"Sam O'Brien up top and Katharine Stephens up top, we had a game plan where we wanted to catch their defense off-guard and we did a good job of that," Blackhawks coach Laura Wagley said. "We just couldn't finish."
West Aurora was coming off a 1-0 win over Plainfield Central on Wednesday in the semifinals but wasn't able to slow the Tigers like they did Plainfield Central.
"Give it to Plainfield Central, they were a great team, but I don't think we were ready for all of their (Plainfield North's) runs," Wagley said. "They are a very good offensive team, probably one of the best offensive teams we've seen all season."
West Aurora kept playing hard despite trailing 5-0 for most of the second half and had a few opportunities early before the tide turned once again toward the Tigers. They scored their final two goals with 13 and 3 minutes remaining.
"I thought we started off a little slow," Crowe said. "We weren't really connecting on a lot of passes. It just took us awhile to get going. There's always nerves and once we got the first goal it took the pressure off. We got the second goal and I felt we really started playing well. We knew if we got a couple goals we could relax and play our game."
It didn't take long for Wagley to move from the disappointment of Friday's result to focusing on an outstanding spring. O'Brien led the way in her final season before continuing her career at Northern Illinois next fall.
"This is by far the best season we've had," Wagley said. "We were No. 8 (seed), we had never been top 10 in our sectional ever. It's a very tough sectional. That was a big accomplishment. Getting to a regional championship, I don't think anyone has gone this far. It was a great year."