Girls soccer: Kollhoff, Burlington Central top Geneva
When Zoey Kollhoff debuted on the Burlington Central soccer team as a freshman last year, her coach Jessica Arneson had one wish.
"She was struggling to break in the starting lineup and one of the things I told her was I need you to score goals in big games," Arneson said.
Kollhoff delivered on that request in a big way Saturday, scoring both of the Rockets goals in a 2-1 win at Geneva.
Both of Kollhoff's goals came late in the first half as the Rockets rallied from a 1-0 deficit for an impressive nonconference win.
And the two-sport standout is doing just what Arneson had hoped for.
"That's her goal and so far she's been doing that all over the place," Arneson said. "Scoring goals in these big games is so important and the fact she can do it is going to mean a lot for us going into the postseason."
Burlington Central (16-2) is coming off the best season in school history when the Rockets took third in the Class 2A state tournament.
With the core of that team back, the Rockets are looking for an even better finish.
Beating a 3A school like Geneva (10-6-1) can only help.
"They are a really great team so for us to come out and get a win like this against a lot of players of a high caliber, it was a good win for us," Kollhoff said. "It's a good confidence-booster for the team as a whole. Games like this help us play together and that's what we're going to need in the postseason."
Junior defender Taylor Abbott agreed. She helped keep Geneva from getting many good scoring chances all game.
"Our conference doesn't really challenge us that much but we go in with the same mentality every game and give it our all so playing those lower level games prepares us for these because we still give it our all," Abbott said of the team's 10-0 record in the Kishwaukee River. "That's why we win 10-0 for those shutouts because we go in with the same mentality. We really fought for this game."
After a scoreless 20 minutes to start the game Saturday, it was Geneva who struck first on a penalty kick from Jenna Dominguez.
The Viking junior now has 20 goals this season and 47 in her career.
The Rockets quickly struck back. Kollhoff's first game came off a throw-in from Alexis Rosa with 11 minutes left in the half.
"Alexis threw in a great ball over the top and I just ran into it and was able to poke it far corner," Kollhoff said.
Just three minutes before half Kollhoff struck again, taking a pass in the middle of the field from Isa Hartmann, making one touch and getting a little space to get a shot off. She finished top shelf, giving the Rockets a 2-1 halftime lead and impressing Arneson with their ability to bounce back.
"You can go down a goal and you have to say it doesn't matter," Arneson said. "You can't score goals with your head down."
The Rockets' defense took over in the second half, shutting out Geneva over the final 40 minutes.
The trio of Abbott, Kirsten Wyse and Sydney Pryor was especially effective at breaking up any Geneva chances.
"It's hard to get past them," Arneson said. "You've got strength, you've got speed, you've got ability in the air. We pride ourselves on team defense and the fact we can keep them out of the center of the field."
Rockets keeper Erin Rafferty made 7 saves.
"Our team is really good at recovering for each other," Abbott said. "We're really comfortable playing together. Our team is a family and we know we need to recover. We try not to get mad at each other and we really hold ourselves together in games like this with a 1-goal lead."
The Rockets conclude the regular season this week with matches against Woodstock, Woodstock North and Hampshire before they take aim at a return trip to state. Like earlier games at the Naperville Invitational, Arneson said Saturday is just what her team needed.
"Having that competition is really important to us," Arneson said. "We might not see that right away in the postseason but we will down the line. This will prepare us for what's coming."
Geneva plays St. Charles East and Wheaton Academy this week before postseason. Coach Megan Owens said her main concern is her team's health.
"We just didn't execute well," Owens said. "We had our opportunities. We're playing good soccer. Burlington is a very good program, they have knocked off some good teams this year. It's just some little things. We're in every game. I'm pleased with how my team is playing."