Stevenson's girls soccer team is enjoying a regional championship for the first time since 2014 after spectacular goals from Gracie Wingfield and Ana Koruna sent No. 7 seed Fremd (7-10-4) out of the state tournament Saturday morning in Lincolnshire.
The second-seeded Patriots (11-6-3) won 2-0 to advance into the Libertyville sectional next Tuesday evening, where they will meet the host Wildcats at 6:30 p.m.
"Prior to the season, we brought the girls into the center of our stadium and stood in the center circle and talked about winning a regional, and lifting the championship trophy to begin a new tradition," said Stevenson coach PepeJon Chavez. "Little did I know we would be hosting and celebrating a regional championship."
The Patriots got an early goal on a set-piece play, one of four Chavez installed for this contest. Wingfield ran hard to the back post before blasting her one-timer with athletic form and flair off a Hannah Lapeire serve.
"We practiced our corner kicks because we knew that Fremd would come at us, and that a goal off a dead-ball or set piece might be all we could get against them," said Wingfield, who earlier in the week bagged 3 in the Patriots' 9-0 win over Zion-Benton in their first regional test.
Moments after the Wingfield goal, Fremd coach Steve Keller adjusted by moving Lauren Burk out from her spot alongside Marta Cholewa in the Vikings' back four to a place up top to give his club a new 3-4-3 formation.
In a 2-1 victory in shootout last Tuesday against Buffalo Grove, Keller's deployment of Burk into his front-line proved a key move.
Both teams went hard for every first and second ball, making things to rather chippy at times. Several calls from the center official brought howls from a large, raucous crowd, and both benches. By the end of the 80 minutes, five yellow-card bookings, one of which was a second, had been handed out, and the Vikings had to go a player down for the final four minutes of regulation.
Burk would put two on frame before the half-hour to force a pair of saves from Zoe Friedman. And Stevenson's Lapeire drove a pair of free kicks wide from just inside 30 yards.
Jennifer Norris, the Vikings' hero in the their shootout victory against BG, was at it again as the sophomore keeper made a superb save on Wingfield, who'd run freely into the Fremd box, only to see her close-range attempt fearlessly turned away. Norris' 48th minute save kept the Patriots advantage at 1 goal -- until Koruna ruined the Vikings' comeback chances.
The senior brought a short ball under control before unloading an unstoppable missile which had so much pace on it that it bounded off of the bottom of the net and bounded back into the field of play.
The Vikings threw more numbers forward after the 61st-minute goal. But on this day, the Patriots' back line and midfield work helped them advance.
"You don't want to think this could be your last game forever at the start of the day, but it was, which makes be sad because I'm leaving behind my teammates, and coach Keller, and everything that has made be playing soccer at Fremd such a great memory," said a tearful Cholewa, the Vikings' classy and talented senior who was an all-MSL defender for Keller the past two seasons.
"Marta gave so much to this team and our program, and conducted herself in such a professional manner each time out, playing this year at less than 100 percent after coming back from ACL surgery last year," said Keller.