Girls soccer: Kaneland beats Sycamore for conference tournament title
Just because a play is drawn up a certain way, doesn't mean it's always going to work out on the field as it does on paper.
Kaneland girls soccer coach Scott Parillo said he came up with a play at halftime that he thought would work. And sure enough, 19 seconds into the second half, Kaneland had doubled its lead en route to a 3-0 win against Sycamore for the Interstate 8 title.
"We came up with that play at halftime," Parillo said. "We said this is what we're going to do, and boom, boom, boom they went down and did it. How cool is that? Boom, 19 seconds into the second half we score."
Audrey Salamon dribbled into the corner through the Sycamore defense, passing across to the field and connecting with Brigid Gannon, who headed into the goal on the left side.
It gave the Knights (13-5) a cushion after they took a 1-0 into the half.
"I don't know what happened there," Salamon said with a chuckle. "I was kind of, not annoyed with 1-0, but knew we could do better. So I tried to push it and Bridge got the header off the cross again so that was good."
Parillo said he wanted a more aggressive kickoff to start the half, instead of giving the Spartans (9-9) -- who had the wind in the final 40 minutes -- a chance to intercept a lateral and catch the Knights for a quick goal and a tied game.
"Audrey went around three of their layers to get the cross in and that was huge," Parillo said. "It was drawn up just the way we wanted it to go. Pop it down into the corner and if it doesn't work we've got them buried down in their corner, no big deal. ... And it worked."
Kaneland scored in the 13th minute of the game on a header by Taylor Carlson, who ended up with the loose ball on the left side after it popped loose from the right.
"It was just unfortunate on the first goal, the ball bounced around and ended up on Carlson's head," Sycamore coach Kevin Bickley said. "But even after that first goal I thought we responded well. I thought we composed ourselves for the remainder of the half."
Sycamore had chances to respond after the goal. Ella Shipley took a quick free kick and caught Kaneland out of position and found Jordyn Tilstra but failed to connect.
Abigail Bourdage followed in the final 10 minutes of the half with a rocket from the left side but Ellie Kurz batted it away. Sycamore also had two good looks off a corner kick but couldn't connect either, going into the half down one.
"We liked the way we were playing, we liked our chances," Bickley said. "We knew the next goal was going to be critical for the confidence in the game. And to go down 2-0 like right off the bat kind of sucked the winds out of our sails a little bit."
Kaneland added a third goal from Salamon on a one-timer from the left side.
"I know we were all nervous coming into this even though we previously beat them," Salamon said. "It's still a thrill for Taylor to get the first header and continue that through to the second half. Somehow we always pull through more in the second half."
Neither team had many scoring opportunities in the second half, but Bickley said Kaneland was able to capitalize on theirs.
And after the handful of first half opportunities, Sycamore never really got a good second-half look. Bickley said that may have been due to a strategy change.
"Looking back we changed our formation a little bit just to get an extra striker up there," Bickley said. "Maybe that confused things and maybe we lose that extra body in the midfield, that changes some things. ... Maybe that kind of hurt our chemistry. We haven't played that formation that much but we knew once they scored, we had to get some more bodies forward."
After Kaneland went unblemished through the Interstate 8 in the regular season, Parillo said the Knights wanted to add a tourney title in their first year in the league.
"We wanted to finish what we started," Parillo said. "Our goal was to win conference. We were the No. 1 seed and we wanted to make sure the No. 1 seed won it. And we did."