Girls soccer: Benet clinches 'historic' trip to state semifinals
Even a Benet squad oozing with confidence had to wonder a little at halftime Tuesday night if the supersectional hurdle could somehow keep the Redwings from advancing to state and earning the school's first girls state soccer trophy.
With a 21-3-1 record entering play at the Class 2A Hinsdale South supersectional, Benet controlled play in the first half and had six shots on goal while preventing Fenwick from putting a single shot on goal. But the Friars junior goalkeeper Mary Heneghan stopped each threat, including a pair of dazzling saves to keep the first half scoreless.
But senior forward Abby Casmere and her teammates could not be stopped, not after falling in last year's supersectional to eventual state champion St. Francis. Casmere scored the first of her 2 goals less than three minutes into the second half and Benet added three more scores in the next 13 minutes en route to a 4-0 win that advances the program to this weekend's state finals at North Central College.
"It was huge. It is historic in our program because we have never made it to the state semis," Redwings coach Gerard Oconer said of the 4-goal barrage to start the second half. "So to have that especially after such a lackluster first half … that might have been one of the worst halves we had all year. So to come out after that and to be able to play like that, that speaks of how much they wanted it so badly."
Less than four minutes after the first tally, Mia Tommasone scored off a pass from Cami Picha, then Casmere made it a 3-0 lead when she blew past a Fenwick defender and scored her 20th goal of the spring on a short-range blast past goalkeeper Audrey Hinrichs, who took over for Heneghan to start the second half but couldn't handle Benet's fired-up offense.
"It was a little stressful but we talked at halftime and we knew we had to score one and then soon the game would pick up its pace and we'd be on a roll," said Casmere, one of many players back from last year's team that came up short in the supersectional. "It's just that first goal we needed to get that kind of gets us motivated and it really got us going.
"It was a little weird playing here again in the same game but we knew we didn't want to have the same history. It's a good feeling … it's crazy, crazy good."
The balanced Redwings were crazy good, flashing speed and skill all over the field and eventually taking advantage of their chances while ending the Friars season at 14-7-1.
"Just the balance on the field, every position we're strong," Oconer said. "There's not a weak spot. Every kid can handle the ball. Every kid is skilled and athletic. What makes it even more special for our athletic program in general is that in the fall our volleyball girls made it downstate and then in the winter our girls basketball made it downstate. So for us to kind of complete the trifecta in the spring has been amazing for our athletic program."
Like Casmere, senior midfielder Mia Ullmer was looking forward to this historic night after 2018 ended one game shy of a trophy.
"We've never made it past supersectionals before and our crowd was just amazing," she said. "That atmosphere is so great because so many people are so supportive of us. It was a huge factor in how we played. It gives us so much energy."
Ullmer really liked the result.
"It's such a huge accomplishment compared to last year. Especially winning this game 4-0," she said. "It's such an upgrade, we are so much better than last year."