Fifth-seeded Glenbrook South and superb striker April Cronin broke the hearts of the Palatine girls soccer faithful Tuesday evening as the Titans overwhelmed the sectional hosts 6-2 to end the season for the No. 13 Pirates (14-9-2), who were hosting semifinal action at Chic Anderson Stadium.
Cronin struck three times before 20 minutes had elapsed, and she put the finishing touches on a brilliant offensive show at 53 minutes to give the Titans (19-4-4) their 13th consecutive victory and a place in Friday's sectional final with No. 2 Buffalo Grove.
Last season, the Bison sent Glenbrook South coach Seong Ha's club home early last season when it lost in shootout -- but that was in a regional opener.
"I never expected us to have the type of night we had tonight, especially against a team like Palatine which has a great coach in Willie Filian and also plays in a tremendous soccer conference like the MSL," said Ha, who has watched his club concede just 2 goals (both to Palatine) during its recent win streak.
"We've been playing very good soccer, but I was beginning to wonder when we'd be doing so. When we finally got it together and went on our unbeaten streak, one of the reason for our success has been our defense -- and April, who we are very fortunte to have up top for us."
The Pirates, who were just 4-7-2 when the IHSA announced the sectional seeds, have been on a wonderful run themselves, including two straight victories in the postseason to earn a second straight regional crown.
"This team has done some very good things once we got things sorted out, and we tightened things up in the back and really didn't allow very many to go into the back of our net," said Filian. "But tonight, we just weren't very sharp right from the start, and that No. 20 (Cronin) had way too much speed for us. We didn't win a lot of first or second balls, and in the end, we just lost to a better team."
With a burst of speed, Cronin roared past her marker on the left side and after turning the corner unleashed a wicked drive into the far side netting to get the Titans on the scoreboard at seven minutes.
Five minutes later, the junior tricked her way in close, before calmly going past keeper Meghan Ellis, who had little chance to stop Cronin's second goal and 23rd of the season.
Ellis made a superb point-blank save just afterward, but when the rebound spilled out in front, the ever-opportunistic Cronin thumped home the Titans' third goal at 17 minutes.
"I am glad that April is on our side, and just a junior," smiled Ha.
Katelyn Mayer stopped the bleeding temporarily for the hosts when she went high to meet McKenzie Wiedemann's free kick serve to the back post and head past keeper Kelsey Byers. But the visitors responded almost immediately with Colleen McDonagh pulling the Mayer goal back with one of her own at 30 minutes.
Elenli Haramaras, the other half of the Titans 1-2 strike-force up top along with Cronin, made it 5-1 with her 48th goal, and after Kellie Reynolds brought the Pirates closer five minutes later before Cronin scored once more.
"We had wanted to keep them off the scoreboard for the first 20 minutes," said Filian, "but when weren't able to do so, we just never could really stop them after. We kind of ended the season the way we started, when Boylan beat us up pretty bad. But everything else in between was very good, and that's what all of our players should remember."