Girls soccer: Stevenson downs Lake Zurich, rolls into sectional final
Stevenson's girls soccer team maintained its near flawless record Tuesday night at Buffalo Grove's Grant Blaney Stadium with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over North Suburban Conference rival Lake Zurich to advance into the sectional final Saturday morning against No. 3 seed Fremd.
The No. 1 seed Patriots (21-1-2) were frustrated for the majority of the first half by the Bears (12-10-1), who outworked coach PepeJon Chavez' club, never allowing the Pats to get into their comfort zone until after Emma Ramagnano hit the eventual game-winner.
"We played a little nervous, and not anywhere close to the way we are capable of but a lot of credit goes to Lake Zurich, who came out strong and didn't let up until we finally found our game midway through the second half," said Chavez.
Patriots keeper Jennifer Staten would save her club twice in the first half, both times taking sure goals out of the back of the net, which could have spelled disaster for her team.
"You always count on your keeper to make two big saves -- tonight Jennifer did just that, both of them just remarkable stops," said a relieved Chavez. "There's several reasons we've conceded just six goals this season. We have a hardworking, tenacious back line but a lot of that is on Jennifer, whose made 180-plus saves this year, but none bigger than tonight when we needed her to do so."
With the Bears' attack running on pure octane and their midfield, led by Morgan Long, Haley Brosseau and Jenna Krause winning nearly every ball, and distributing to all parts of the park, it was clear early on coach Mike Castronova's club came to play.
"The effort, work rate, energy, and just everything about the way the girls played was amazing and we were in this game right from the start. The only thing we didn't do was finish our chances," said the LZ head coach.
It was not for a lack of trying.
Maddy Piggott, who in the final game of her career, was unstoppable at times as the Bears' target player up top and it was her close-range attempt that was turned away by Staton in the 6th minute that would set the tone for the first period.
Later, it was Piggott once again, this time even closer to Station, who fearlessly kept the right-footed missile for the Bears' star from finding the opener.
"Two great chances in the first half, both stopped with great saves," admitted Castronova.
Stevenson would get on its front foot after the break, and it took players such as Grace Wingfield, Gabi Nyc, Ramagnano, and all-state forward Kiki Van Zanten to inspire them.
The game was finally settled by the technical brilliance of Van Zanten, who turned away from pressure, went end line, then crossed an inch-perfect ball to the back post where Ramagnano's clinical finish broke the deadlock.
"You never know with a player like Kiki, who is so talented, is going to shoot from that angle or put a serve into the box so I just did what you're supposed to do as a No. 7 and ran to the post," said Ramagnano.
"When you play like we did tonight, all you can say is how proud you are of your players, and that's how I feel right now about all of them," said Castronova.