Girls soccer: Crystal Lake Central wins fifth straight FVC title with big win over Hampshire

Crystal Lake Central seniors faced great expectations when they entered the program four years ago. The Tigers lost in the Class 2A supersectionals in 2019 and the pressure was there for the talented group to build off that success.

On Tuesday, the Tigers made sure to hold up their end of the bargain once again.

Central came out fast to beat Hampshire, 8-0. With that win and Huntley’s 1-0 overtime win over Burlington Central on Tuesday, the Tigers captured their fifth straight season Fox Valley Conference title.

“It’s really nice to have gotten it all four years, especially since we put a lot into it,” Central senior Maddie Gray said. “This is a very special team. Just to have the ability to share this all four years has been great with all the players that we’ve had.”

Central (14-2-2, 8-0) didn’t waste time setting the tone early. The Tigers fired three shots on goal in the first six minutes before senior Brooklynn Carlson broke through with a goal with 33:14 left in the first half.

That was only just beginning.

Junior Lizzie Gray scored off a rebound with 30:33 left in the first half, Maddie Gray’s long shot sneaked in with 20:58 left in the first half while senior Carter Thompson and junior Hadley Ferrero each scored before the end of the half. Maddie Gray, freshman Jordin Gaunaurd and senior Sadie Quinn each scored in the second half.

Central finished with 22 shots on goal.

The Tigers’ quick approach has been something they’ve worked on to prepare for the playoffs. Maddie Gray said Central starts each match playing as if it’s trailing in order to prepare themselves for must-score scenarios.

“We’ve been practicing that, just getting quick goals for the playoffs, trying to lay on the goals as quick as possible,” Maddie Gray said. “We want to prepare ourselves for when we’re under pressure and maybe need to do that in a quick amount of time.”

Central coach Sarah Fack was proud of what he senior group had accomplished up to that point. While the Tigers are focused on building off a third-place finish in last season’s Class 2A playoffs, Fack didn’t diminish what her team accomplished Tuesday.

“It’s been really fun to see,” Fack said. “Every year they’ve found success and have improved, had some fun. To see their senior year going so well has been awesome. We hope we kind of continue building and we’re hoping we haven’t seen our best yet.”

While the Tigers scored and moved the ball with ease, the Whip-Purs (8-9, 3-6) struggled to possess the ball throughout the match. Central’s midfield made it tough for Hampshire to create any strong looks. The Whips ended the match with no shots on goal.

Hampshire coach Kelly Madison had some of the Whips competing in different positions just so they’re versatile for the playoffs. They’ll need to adjust quickly as they’re likely to see more teams like Central in the postseason.

“To get better we have to play those higher levels, win or lose,” Madison said. “There’s no way to fix it other than keep going.”

Hampshire will end the regular season against Kaneland on Thursday while Central will resume a suspended match against Prairie Ridge on Friday. The Tigers were up 1-0 with 20 minutes left in the first half.

With a win, Central will go undefeated in conference for a second straight season. But despite the accomplishment, the Tigers are more determined to hit their peak so they can live up those expectations from four years ago.

“We’re always climbing,” Carlson said. “We’re trying to get better each day. Our peak is the state finals.”

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