Girls soccer: Libertyville pulls away from Vernon Hills in 2nd half

Libertyville overcame a sluggish first half of soccer to record a 6-0 victory over visiting Vernon Hills Saturday afternoon at sunny Walter Johnson Stadium.

The NSC-leading Wildcats (10-3-1, 6-0-0) exploded for five goals after the intermission to earn their fifth consecutive win, and seventh in eight games, with a 0-0 draw with Glenbard West its only 'blemish' during that time.

"(That) was not a very good first half today, and I didn't hesitate to tell the girls at the break," said Wildcats coach Daniel DePaz.

"The second half showed how we can play. We did a lot of things really well, especially with our energy and ability to move the ball around quickly, which helped lead to most of our goals," said senior Erin Kelly, who will play at Marian University, Ind. in the fall.

It did not take long for the Cougars to show they had come to play. The quartet of Sophie Ackermann, Emily Hammond, Frances Poulos and Ava Lukyan immediately brought the visitors’ attack to life.

"We came out with great energy today, and we matched it with a strong work rate which carried us all up until the first half came to an end," said Lukyan, the Cougars’ marvelous senior midfielder, who turned in a terrific effort sitting (in) just behind her front line.

Ackerman forced Wildcats keeper Brianna Valdez into action in the 12th minute with a wicked left-footed effort — and she would redirect her header on frame in which Valdez brought down with confidence.

Valdez would share the shutout with teammate Kate Hopma who came on after the break.

The home side turned a mistake by the Cougars near the midline into the opener. Molly Koch collected an errant pass and quickly played a lovely ball to Tess McGormley who finished past keeper Carly Sides who came out in hope of cutting the angle on the Wildcats junior.

"We played such a fantastic 40 minutes of soccer on both sides of the ball. But that late goal (39th minute) was a tough one to concede, and as the second half went on we didn't have the fresh legs we had in the first half," said Cougars coach Cory Smith.

It took the Wildcats but two minutes to create the first of several quality chances at the Cougars’ (8-6-2, 5-1-0) second half keeper Morgan Straza.

Shea Krakowski went close at 42 minutes, as did Shannon Phillips moments later.

The constant pressure would soon result in a pair of rapid fire goals from Meg O'Donnel and Sydney Dulak just four minutes apart.

The lead would be extended further when Sydney Krokonis, Lilly Frantz and Natalie Schmidt came off the bench to add three more on the scoreboard before the final whistle ended this nonconference affair.

The Wildcats can secure their second consecutive NSC title with either a win or draw on Tuesday when it hosts second place Stevenson (10-3-2, 4-1-1) and its scoring star Ellie Egeland who will enter the game with 23 goals.

Cory Smith will take his club into 3A state power New Trier on Tuesday to finish its regular season in which they finished second to Niles North in the CSL North division.

"If we can play like we did today in the first half when we open regionals in another week, we should have a chance to compete with a lot of teams in the postseason," said Smith.

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