Girls Soccer: Leah Celarek leads Conant comeback against Schaumburg
Updated: April 16, 2012 10:34PM
Her career has just started, but Leah Celarek in a blinding instant had a moment she is not likely to ever forget.
The Conant freshman forward controlled a loose ball and smashed in a left-foot shot from about 14 yards out in the 72nd minute that proved the game-winner in host No. 5 Conant’s thrilling 2-1 win over No. 6 Schaumburg Monday night in Hoffman Estates.
A buoyant Celarek was so enthused, events were hard to remember. “It was a whirlwind,” she said. “I don’t know who passed the ball to me, but it was a great pass.” Conant coach Jason Franco said Celarek snared the loose ball and did the hard work herself.
Celarek’s score capped a strong comeback that saw the Cougars (9-1, 6-1 Mid-Suburban West) rally from a 1-0 first half deficit. The Cougars were also trying to deal with the aftermath of their first loss, a 3-0 shutout to No. 10 Barrington last Friday.
“At halftime, we just said that this was our game,” Celarek said.
The Cougars’ catalyst, as usual, was star senior forward Courtney Raetzman. The Kentucky-recruit scored her 15th goal of the year in the 46th minute to forge the 1-1 all-tie. Senior forward Sam Armando crossed from the right side to Raetzman in the middle third, who controlled the ball and also drilled a left-footer from about 24 yards out that eluded the reach of star Saxons’ keeper Brooke Schocker.
“That was the turning point of the game,” Celarek said. “Courtney’s goal gave us the momentum back and the confidence that we were going to win,” she said.
Conant has been the nemesis for the Saxons. The Cougars have ended the Saxons’ season the last three years, including last year’s Class 3A sectional final. “One of my best friends, [senior defender] Ali Schmalz plays for Schaumburg and I know they really wanted this game badly,” Raetzman said.
The hangover from the Barrington loss provided the necessary wake up call, Raetzman said. “We didn’t like losing, especially after we had such a great start to the season, where we were beating everybody,” she said. “But sometimes you need that reminder that you still have things to work on.”
Schaumburg (9-1-2, 3-1-1) controlled much of the first half and broke through in the 19th minute. Senior midfielder Kelsey Steenstrup drove the right edge of the field and delivered a perfectly sculpted ball that curled just inside the top of the bar for the Saxons’ 1-0 advantage.
The Saxons maintained the pressure in the first half. Moments later, star sophomore forward Alexa Ben controlled a deflected ball outside the Cougars’ goal. Her rebound shot was just wide to the right, symbolic of the team’s empty chances, coach Greg Charvat said.
“The difference in the game was Conant was able to capitalize on their few remaining scoring chances and we weren’t,” he said.