Girls soccer: O'Connor saves tie for Naperville Central
Abby O'Connor did not want to settle for a tie during Naperville Central's DuPage Valley Conference match across town at Naperville North on Thursday night, but if not for her swift action early in the second half and literally in the final seconds, the Redhawks would've been sent home with a really tough loss.
O'Connor who was in goal during the second half and overtimes, denied a penalty kick a few minutes into the second half from Emily Dulik and then got just enough of her hand on Dulik's shot with three seconds remaining in the final overtime to send it off the crossbar as the Redhawks and Huskies played to a 1-1 tie.
"Ties are the worst," O'Connor said. "I felt like we were so incredibly close to winning, but I'm so proud of my team for grinding it out through the overtimes."
Naperville Central grabbed the lead midway through the first half on Emma Irle's free kick.
"I honestly didn't know it was going to go in," Irle said. "(Coach Ed) Watson told me to hit it at the scoreboard and I never take free kicks so I just hit it and it went in."
Naperville North (3-0-1, 2-0-1) had a great chance to tie the game with 35:47 remaining in the second half when Dulik was awarded a penalty kick, but O'Connor guessed right and made a diving rejection. Dulik, a senior forward, was able to snag her own rebound but her second attempt sailed too high.
"I honestly know that (Dulik's) a right power shooter and not a placement shooter," O'Connor said. "I guessed right so I had a little luck on my side."
The game remained 1-0 in Central's favor until junior Leah Jacobs gained possession and blasted a shot from about 25 yards away just inside the far post with only 11:57 left in the second half to knot the score at 1-1.
"Leah played fantastic for us," Huskies coach Steve Goletz said. "She buried that shot from a distance and we needed that. Madison Korosec and Cam Dinkla both were a force and the kids battled back. I thought the wind was a huge factor when we first came out, but they just kept on working hard."
Among all the excitement of 100 minutes of soccer, Goletz acknowledged that it almost felt like things were back to normal, although the mask on his face served as a reminder that things remain different although the stellar play on the field has returned and the rival is fierce as ever.
"We had a great crowd and everyone was on pins and needles," he said. "It made it feel closer to being normal again."