Girls soccer: Naperville Central rallies past Metea Valley
The way sophomore defender Ella Burke sees it, her and her Naperville Central teammates have to make up for lost time and might just as well try and have twice as much fun this spring if at all possible.
After the COVID pandemic wiped out last year's soccer season, Burke is making her varsity debut this spring and she's a big reason for the Redhawks' great season, one that was extended after Tuesday's 2-1 defeat of Metea Valley in the sectional semifinals played at Naperville Central. Burke assisted on the game-winning goal against the Mustangs but just as importantly she led a defense that protected the lead against a Metea Valley team that gave its very best all night long.
"Last year not having a season was crazy. So for me and the other sophomores this is our first season. We feel like freshmen," said Burke. "But this is absolutely amazing going to a sectional final. This is so cool."
The Mustangs, who close out the year 12-8-1 after a third straight loss to the Redhawks, struck first on Tuesday as Jordan Lange put her team up 1-0 less than four minutes into the game. Lange also had a goal and an assist in Metea's regional title win over Waubonsie Valley on Saturday.
But Naperville Central, looking for its first sectional championship since 1995, answered quickly as Sullivan Schubel buried a rebound with 33:40 left in the first half. Megan Norkett then tallied the game-winner less than five minutes later and neither team scored from there, although both team had chances.
"It was a little nerve-wracking when they got that first goal, but we were keeping our energy up and I knew we were coming back stronger," said Burke, whose team will square off against rival Naperville North in Friday's sectional title.
The Mustangs, led by speedy attackers Lange and Tyra King, created their share of scoring chances, but managed just one goal against the Redhawks tandem of keepers Trinity Strang and Abigail O'Connor, who each played a half.
"We played really well today. We had lots of opportunities. We just weren't able to put the ball in the net," Mustangs coach Chris Whaley said. "They're a great team. We got better and better as the season went on and we played our best soccer tonight. I'm so proud of our girls, but it's hard to get out of this sectional."
Schubel credited her team's defense for another big night and also downplayed her game-tying score, chalking it up as a right-place at the right-time goal.
"Ella in the back is always amazing and she saved us a lot today, along with Sophia Skoubis and the whole defense," Schubel said. "I think we're really excited now. We didn't get much time together last year but we've fallen into a pretty good rhythm this year and we're playing really well. As for my goal, Megan Norkett took the free kick and I just followed it in. I got pretty lucky."