Girls soccer: Crystal Lake Central blanks Burlington Central in FVC match

Crystal Lake Central’s Jillian Mueller was on a mission against Burlington Central on Thursday night.

Mueller didn’t only want to help the Tigers win a girls soccer match between two of the top teams in the Fox Valley Conference. After being shut out in recent matches, Mueller was on a quest to break through and score.

She picked the perfect time Thursday night.

Mueller finally connected after some early misses and scored to help the Tigers pick up a pivotal 2-0 FVC win.

“We knew this game would determine who took the conference win,” Mueller, a senior, said. “So we knew we had to come out strong.”

Both teams came out strong as they battled through a constant downpour. The Tigers (10-1-1, 4-0) tallied five shots on goal in the first half before Mueller got over the hump.

Mueller settled the ball a few feet in front of the box before she made a move to get free of her defender. Once she got some space, Mueller intended for her shot to stay on the ground. Instead it went up and just over Rockets sophomore goalkeeper Mackenzie Lorkowski’s reach to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead with 2:52 left in the first half.

“I know she’s been looking for goals the last couple games, so I’m glad to see one fall for her,” Tigers coach Sarah Fack said. “She can score, she can beat others on the dribble and it was nice to see her get that goal for us.”

The pressure didn’t stop in the second half. The Tigers kept attacking Lorkowski, who made impressive saves throughout the half, including on a penalty-kick attempt.

They had five more shots on goal against Lorkowski before sophomore Addison Schaffer scored off a fastbreak with 8:13 left in the match. Lorkowski ended the night with 11 saves.

“We knew it was going to take some dynamic movement, getting runs off the ball, we wouldn’t be able to get shots that we settle for to actually fall for us,” Fack said. “It would probably take more work than usual because we know how good she is.”

Tigers senior goalkeeper Addison Cleary made her fair share of saves too to earn the shutout. Cleary finished with 6 saves, including a couple of shots that she managed to just get a hand on.

Fack was proud of Cleary and the defense for turning away the Rockets’ shots and opportunities by winning 50-50 balls on a tough weather night.

“They communicated, shifted well together and did a great job,” Fack said. “Defensively, everyone on the field pressuring winning those 50-50 is what helped us out today.”

The Rockets’ inexperience on the front line cost them from scoring on some key chances, according to Rockets coach Jessica Arneson. Many of the players in the lineup are sophomores who are still learning how to make the most of their opportunities.

Playing against the Tigers in a pivotal FVC battle wasn’t only a way to prepare for the postseason. It was also a good way to get excited about the future.

“That team is where I hope we will be in about two years,” Arneson said. “We’ve got a big sophomore class, they’ve got a big senior class, so in about two years I think we’ll be where they’re at. I’m excited about that. I love playing them.”

The Rockets (3-6-2, 1-1) will start a stretch of five matches in seven days when they play at McHenry on Tuesday. The Tigers will play Metea Valley in the Bodyarmor Series on Sunday.

While the Tigers picked up an important win that could decide the FVC crown later in the season, they know they’ll need more complete team efforts like Thursday’s to win a fifth straight conference crown.

“Any game can be an upset,” Mueller said. “We’ve got the target on our back, so we have to play every game like it could be our last.”

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