Third-place trophy suits St. Viator
St. Viator earned the third-place trophy from the Class 2A girls soccer state tournament Saturday following a dominant 80 minutes against Normal University High (19-7-1) in a 4-1 victory at North Central College in Naperville.
It was a bittersweet ending to a marvelous season overall for coach Mike Taylor and his club, which endured a laundry list of injuries throughout the season before rising up in the final two weeks to advance into the final four -- only to have a letdown in the semifinal on Friday to eventual state champ St. Francis, which beat Chatham Glenwood 2-1 in the final.
"I have to believe if we came out (against St. Francis) and played like we did today, that would have been the team out there playing Glenwood for the state championship," said Taylor, who was all smiles after his club played as if the only thing that mattered was finishing with a victory.
"None of us know what happened to this team yesterday, but before we came out to begin warming up, we took the girls aside and told them to go out there and play for mom and dad because they are always there for you, through thick and thin," said Taylor. "Play for yourself, and above all, go out and show U-High and the rest of the 2A exactly what type of team that you are. And they did."
Following Taylor's mission statement, the Lions (16-9-4) started well and continued a high level of play right up until the center official signaled the end of the match. Just moments before, senior Erin Malone scored the final goal of the season for St. Viator.
"That bus ride home was so quiet (after the semifinal)," said Katelyn Hammarlund, who finished her brilliant four-year career by putting two balls into the back of the net to give her 14 overall this spring. "Taylor told us that wasn't St. Viator soccer that we played out there against St. Francis, and to go there today and play the way we're supposed to, and to play with a lot of pride as well. And we all did."
Katherine Petrovich and Hammarlund were the co-creators on the first goal of the game, when the duo shared some nice combination work before Hammarlund found Chloe Lutheringshausen just inside the box -- where she was promptly hauled down.
Hammarlund coolly converted her spot kick at 10 minutes, but that was it in the first half for the Lions, who always seemed right on the cusp of scoring but were unable to finish.
"We knocked the ball around, possessed, and played free and easy soccer," said Taylor. "It was great to see them go out and play that way in their last game together."
The Lions got off to a rip-roaring beginning to the second half, with Hammarlund using a nifty touch to her right to free herself long enough to turn and go the other way in the 46th minute. Five minutes later, Erin Renee Murphy dented the morale of U-High after Kayne Stanley played a nice ball wide to her teammate, who fnished nicely past keeper Tiffany Masters.
Taylor started to bring many of his starters off for a spell, giving his entire roster minutes in the tournament. Later, Hammarlund and Katie Gavin returned for the final minutes of regulation, along with the rest of his seniors.
"We got everyone in today, including all four keepers, and each one made their contribution to the win, and the day," said Taylor.
Taylor embraced each of them -- particularly his seniors, who were his first group through the program under his watch.
"I was very fortunate to have my first group of seniors to be such a great bunch of girls and players," Taylor said. "I couldn't have asked for anything better. I am very proud of all of them right now, and I will sorely miss each of them."
Gavin, who will play next fall at Wisconsin-Parkside, was the ultimate box-to-box, 80-minute warrior and team captain for the Lions. She thoroughly enjoyed the ride this season, but still couldn't believe it was over.
"It kind of hit me when Taylor was talking to us before the game, next door in the bleachers at the baseball fields, and some of the things he was saying made be a little sad because it was then I knew that it was almost over," said Gavin. "I am going to miss this team, and especially him, but I am really happy for everyone that we went out with a win today also."