St. Edward's regional title one for the thumb
In white, bold lowercase lettering, the newly-minted emerald green T-shirts St. Edward's girls soccer team donned before Friday's regional championship read across the back "Nightmare on Elm Street."
For No. 2 seed Willows Academy, after the Green Wave's 6-2 win, call it a "Nightmare on Judson Way."
Even though it may be best described as Groundhog Day for Willows in St. Edward's Class 1A Westminster Christian regional championship win at Judson University, the top-seeded Wave (13-7) won their fifth-straight regional in most part due to Megan Kearney's second-straight hat trick of the playoffs. And the senior's goals all occurred in roughly same fashion: sideline throw-in, breakaway run, score.
"Our defender just didn't really give her enough room," Willows coach Amy McMahon said. "I feel if she gave her a little more room and let her turn and then got her face on we could push her outside but she sort of played her too close. She's fast. My sweeper didn't release quick enough and she stayed centrally located."
Kearney, who burned the Eagles with her speed, scored her first goal 90 seconds in and added 2 of the Wave's 3 insurance goals in the final 6 minutes. It helped stave off a pesky Willows (10-6-3) team that cut the Wave lead to 3-2 early in the second half.
"What Megan did today, holy moly," St. Edward coach Tim Brieger said. "I told Megan (she had) to do something to take a little wind out of their sails. Their defense (was) creeping more and more up the field, just do something that kind of takes momentum back."
Kearney swung just enough momentum to get the Wave to Wednesday's sectional semifinal against Saturday's North Shore Country Day regional winner, either the host Raiders or Chicago Science and Math Charter, at 4:30 p.m.
"Anything can happen at any given time. It can either be like them getting control and score or it can be like a random, off-the-wall goal," Kearney said. "You just don't want that to be the factor of your game. It's kind of important to get those insurance goals so it doesn't affect it."
Insurance goals plagued St. Edward all season. But they couldn't have been more perfectly timed. Kearney nearly totaled 4 goals on the day but her miss deflected by Willows goalie Liz Stangel was tapped home by junior Ashley Lopez, who raced downfield to catch her fastest teammate to make it 5-2 Wave with 5 minutes remaining. After all the times this season the Wave relaxed too early, at that juncture it was finally the right time to do so.
"I think it was really important, it really calmed our team down," Lopez said. "You get more of a lead, it relaxes you and it was good for the team to relax all of our nerves."
Although Willows was outshot 12-6 in the second half, Marilyn Prince scored her second goal in the 50th minute to create some drama. But if not for St. Edward's 3-goal start (via Chelsea Gnan and Kathleen Duffy's PK), it could have been a much different story.
"St. Edward is a great team but at times we sort of get intimidated and we don't come out and we sort of get on our heels," McMahon said. "They put a quick one in, got a second one, got a handball in the box ... a lot of mental mishaps."