In a spring that's been highlighted by cold, damp weather, Rosary's girls soccer invitational took place Saturday on the warmest playing date of the season.
That's great for people looking to work on a sun tan, not so good for players enduring a long day of running, tackling and shooting. The Royals advanced to the semifinals before being eliminated in their own tournament, which was eventually won by Plainfield South, 1-0 victors over Willows in the title game.
In a tournament where the format is that all matches consist of 20-minute halves, Rosary (10-3-3) raced through its pool play. The Royals defeated Joliet West 3-0, tied Plainfield South 0-0 and defeated Joliet Catholic 1-0. A number of the Royals were then excused to prepare for the Marmion Academy Salute to Youth Dinner Dance.
"The Salute was an issue for the tournament last year and it was again this year," Rosary coach Kristy Kane said. "I think the girls did a better job focusing in the morning on soccer and I think, in the morning, we played really well. Then we had a chance to give some of the other girls some experience and I think they did a great job overall."
The depleted Rosary team still took the lead 12 minutes into its semifinal match with Willows when Quincy Kellett turned on the ball near the halfway line, raced up the right wing, cut inside and hit a shot into the left side netting.
Keelin McNally tied the match for Willows in the second minute of the second half with the Eagles' only shot on goal in the match.
Rosary pressed for a go-ahead goal and forced a goal line clearance when Sonya Popovich passed to Kellett, who forced a save from Willows keeper Bethy Hunt.
But with neither team able to break the deadlock, the match went into penalty kicks. Willows scored four of its five kicks, with Mary Dant making one save and diving the correct way on every kick.
"She's new to being a goalie and she did a great job," Kane said. "We shouldn't have put her in that situation where it came down to PK's. She doesn't have experience with it because she's the JV goalie and they don't go to penalty kicks."
Against Willows' accuracy, Rosary missed its first two kicks, then recovered with shootout goals from Emily Martin and Stephanie Ebert. But Willows won the shootout 4-2 and advanced to the championship match.
In its semifinal, freshman stopper Anna Sheen pushed forward frequently to play almost as a fifth defender.
"She's a freshman and a player with a great future at Rosary," Kane said.
Rosary, undefeated in the Suburban Christian Conference, has three conference matches in four days this week.
"We definitely have a tough week," Kane said. "It's been a tough day and we hope they rest up (Sunday), and then we hope we come out Monday against St. Edward and get a win."
West Aurora's day began with a 1-1-1 pool play record. The Blackhawks tied St. Edward 1-1, lost 2-1 to Willows and defeated IMSA 3-1. After winning 1-0 against Joliet West in the consolation bracket semifinals, West Aurora (6-11-2) fell 3-0 to Joliet Catholic.
St. Edward (10-4-2) also advanced to the semifinals as the winner of the pool which played its games at IMSA. The Green Wave tied West Aurora 1-1, defeated IMSA 2-0 and defeated Willows 2-1.
But in its semifinal with Plainfield South, St. Edward was unable to score while the Cougars' Lexus Rose scored on a rebound from a Kailyn Hasik shot midway through the first half.
"It was a good day," St. Edward coach Tim Brieger said.
. "We just ran out of gas. We were a little short-handed in the Plainfield South game. We had one girl who had to leave and then Corey (Lepoudre) has had a groin injury and then she got stepped on."
With the deletions from the lineup, Brieger gave other players a chance to play.
"We had some younger girls step up," he said. "It's a war of attrition. (The Cougars) were able to get the one goal. We said that the semifinals always end in shootouts or with one goal. You don't get a lot of goals because the girls are all tired. It's whoever gets that break."
Early in the match, Allison Kruk had a close-range shot go over the crossbar with the Green Wave's best scoring chance.
"Our pool play was real strong," Brieger said. "There were a lot of good battles early in the morning. It's a long, hard day. I'm very proud of the girls and pleased with their efforts."