Girls soccer: St. Charles East moves past Neuqua Valley on PKs
Renee Unterberg was living in the moment on Thursday night at Naperville North.
And now meant delivering the game-clinching penalty kick in St. Charles East's quarterfinal game against Neuqua Valley in the Naperville Invitational quarterfinals.
The senior midfielder matched teammates Elle McCaslin, Alondra Carranza, Kayla Villa and Hanna Miller in successfully converting their attempts as the Saints made all five of their PKs while the Wildcats missed one. That allowed the Saints to advance after the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 after regulation.
"It was business as usual," Unterberg said. "I usually focus on (my teammates) until it's my shot. I'm not going to worry about my shot until I get up there, because mentally that's a lot to deal with. I trust my teammates and I know they trust me so I knew what I needed to do when I got up there."
St. Charles East (13-4) advances to Friday's semifinal against Barrington at 5 p.m. St. Charles North will then battle New Trier in the nightcap. Wins by both the Saints and North Stars would set up a third meeting this season.
"We want to play them as much as possible," Unterberg said of the North Stars. "They're one of the best teams in the state and I think we are too, so it would be another good matchup."
Neuqua Valley (6-3-3) certainly made things difficult for the Saints to do much offensively. The Wildcats also had their hands full with what they were going up against from the Saints.
"It was a good, evenly played game," Wildcats coach Joe Moreau said. "It's a tie game and that outcome happens sometimes, but it's not a playoff game."
The Wildcats jumped on the Saints with 30:57 left to play in the first half when sophomore Katelyn Nardulli pounced on a rebound opportunity off an initial shot from Piper Biziorek and buried it.
The Saints netted the equalizer with 19:38 remaining in the first half. Elle McCaslin instructed Ashley DiOrio to take the throw-in, something McCaslin usually will do herself.
"I had a feeling so I had her take the throw," McCaslin said. "We made eye contact and I told her I got it, and she played it to my chest and flicked it over the defender and then when the goalie came out, I chipped it over the top of her."
Both teams challenged each other the rest of the way, but defensive help was strong and negated those few opportunities resulting the game going to overtime.
"I think each team had their moments so to play to a tie was a deserving result, but I'll take going through," Saints coach Vince DiNuzzo said. "And the experience of having penalties is another reason why we do that for the playoff pressure experience."
There won't be a Naperville-area team in the semifinals.
"We've got to come out and play 80 minutes, and in the last three games we haven't been as good in the first half as in the second," Moreau said. "I thought Julia Rushing and Paige Munar played well, and across the board in the second half, we played pretty solid."