Last year when St. Edward girls soccer coach Tim Brieger checked the clock with 16 minutes remaining and his Green Wave leading 1-0, knowing how the 2012 postseason went down in the late stages, he grudgingly watched Francis Parker score 3 unanswered goals and deny the Green Wave a state berth for a second-straight year.
Tuesday night, at the same juncture against Chicago Latin in the same location, at the Class 1A Concordia University supersectional in River Forest, when Brieger checked the clock at the 16 minute mark, there was no doubt his Green Wave were going to seal the deal this time.
Up 2 goals already, midfielder Monica Ramirez put the lock on a state bid with the Wave's third goal on a feed from midfielder Corey Lepoudre with 17 minutes on the clock. Forward Alex Zeller, who scored twice for the Wave, added the fourth and final exclamation point with 11 minutes left in St. Edward's 4-0 win over the Romans, sending St. Edward to its second state final appearance and first since 2011 when it finished fourth.
"That clock was going slower than I ever have seen before, said Brieger. "When Monica hit it, the weight was lifted off our shoulders. I know the goalie had it and dropped it but it went into the net and I'll take it. We just decided we were the 20 girls that were going to go to state."
Those 20 Green Wave (25-2), winners of 18-straight, will face off with Manteno Friday at 7 p.m. at North Central College in Naperville. The Panthers were a 4-1 winner Tuesday over St. Thomas More, a team St. Edward beat 3-0 earlier this season.
Forward Allison Kruk had a goal in Tuesday's win while Lepoudre had 2 assists and Chelsea Gnan notched 1. The Wave also improved to a 31-0 advantage in the postseason over its opponents.
"We were all like, 'Finally!' " said Kruk, St. Edward's all-time leading goal scorer. "Each goal we kind of relaxed that much more. We had time to compose and settle back."
"These girls deserve it. They are amazing young women," Brieger said. "This was a team effort. Nobody stood above anybody, nor stood below anybody."
Beside the fact the St. Edward defense sizzled, allowing just 4 shots through, the Wave commanded a 15-shot advantage. Kruk got the Wave off early with her goal in 6th minute when Zeller took possession into the right corner and sailed a pass into the box that Gnan got a leg on and Kruk easily tapped in for the 1-0 lead.
Zeller gave the Wave a 2-goal lead in 25th minute when she received a ball from Lepoudre and made a heads up move in the box as Latin goalie Catie Cronister came out to stop. That allowed a nice pad going into the half, which turned into a 30-minute stoppage due to a storm in the area. But it didn't curtail any momentum from the Wave, including Lepoudre who assisted on Ramirez's shot.
"Corey was a huge presence today," Kruk said. "She did absolutely everything with controlling the ball, and getting it where it needed to go."
Goalkeeper Paige Dykstra, who recorded her 22nd shutout, managed 3 saves. Latin (16-3-3) had only 4 shots and only one had a chance of making a dent in the Wave lead and that's been the defensive story all year as Kathleen Duffy, Casey Gredzieleski and Emily Witt held down the fort once again for the Wave in the back.
"We all just have the same goal, to help Paige keep her with her shutout record, even the forwards have that same goal," Duffy said. "A huge factor to the defense was Monica and (Megan Kearney) coming back to the middle and pressuring."
"I think they definitely deserved to win the game tonight and they have a strong chance to make some noise in the Final Four," said Romans' coach Tom Bower, whose team had won 7-straight and gone 13-0-2 in its last 15. "They possess the ball well, they attack a lot, I like the way their defense really goes for the 50-50 balls, and they've got a keeper they obviously have a lot of confidence in."
St. Edward will head to state hoping for a better result than in 2011, when the current seniors were freshmen.
"This time we're not as intimidated, we are experienced," Kruk said. "We're ready to go through and get better than fourth place. We're ready to take first."