Girls soccer: Conant shuts out Hoffman Estates in regional opener

 
By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 6/2/2021 8:35 PM

Conant's 4-goal second half explosion proved far too much for Mid-Suburban League rival Hoffman Estates, whose season ended Wednesday afternoon in a Class 3A regional semifinal girls soccer contest at Charles Feutz Stadium in Hoffman Estates.

Sophie Dobrincu had a hand in 3 of the 4 goals for the Cougars, while teammate Emma Simpson netted two after the intermission, but it was a Gracie Rodriguez goal in the 40th minute that proved the eventual game-winner in a 5-0 victory over the No. 9 seed Hawks.

 

The win sends the eighth-seeded Cougars into the regional final at No. 1 St. Charles East (19-0-1) Saturday at 11 a.m.

"I saw there wasn't much time left in the half so I wanted to get either a shot or serve into the box and it turned out to get into the back of the net," said Rodriguez, whose angled attempt from the end line would bend over keeper Paige Schneider just seconds before the first period came to a close.

Rodriguez and Hannah Husnick were key figures in the shutout both Sydney Litney and Olivia Messerges would share but not with a little bit of luck on their side.

In the 29th minute, Hoffman Estates (6-5-0) senior Avery Panek unloaded a 35-yard missile which, when it left her foot, seemed destined to explode high into the back of the Cougars' net.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, Panek's cracker hit the underside of the bar, fell straight down but not over the line and was easily collected by Litney.

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"Maybe it's a different game if Avery's shot goes in. I don't know but when they got that late goal right before the half, it took the air right out of us and even though we played hard the entire second half, Jason's (Franco, Conant head coach) team had a little too much for us today and deserve to move on," said Hawks coach Jeff Bird, who would guide his club to its best record in his six years in charge.

Simpson would double the Cougars' advantage in the 50th minute, with the help of Dobrincu and Maddie Celarek, then watch Dobrincu, on the turn, steer in her left-footed strike the opposite way of Schneider.

Jessica States and Simpson would add two more into the score book in the final minutes of the contest.

Bird will say goodbye to his three captains -- Christina Salerno, Mia Eberman and Panek, who combined have given the program 11 years of quality, both on and off the field.

"Hoffman battled us, especially in the first half, but we moved the ball around more effectively after the break and connected more passes, which in the end, helped lead to some very nice goals," said Franco.

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