Girls Soccer: Margaret Walker’s goal sends Loyola to Pepsi Showdown final
Updated: April 21, 2012 9:31PM
It was as swift as it was stunning.
Just seconds into the first Pepsi Showdown semifinal Saturday, Loyola senior forward Meeghan Smith took a through ball from defender Corey Burns and made a perfect cross to sophomore forward Margaret Walker.
Walker’s shot curled under the crossbar 23 seconds into the match for the game-winner as the No. 3 Ramblers knocked out No. 2 Metea Valley 1-0 at Olympic Park in Schaumburg.
Loyola meets No. 14 Lake Forest in Sunday’s final at Toyota Park. The Ramblers qualified for their third championship appearance in the last four years.
After Burns’ pass, Smith advanced the ball down the right side and perfectly set up Walker. “Meeghan is so great with the ball, and she made a great cross and I just wanted to keep my composure and take a good shot,” Walker said. It was her 11th goal of the season.
“We were so pumped up the start and ready to play,” Smith said.
In a showdown between the high-octane Mustangs’ offensive attack and the Ramblers’ suffocating defense, Loyola (14-0-1) registered its 14th shutout of the year.
“Getting that goal so early was great to get the momentum early and leave it to our defense from there,’’ Walker said. “Our defense is just awesome, nobody can penetrate it, and we have a lot of faith in them.”
Loyola coach Craig Snower thought the Ramblers had a chance to pounce early. “It was a good start,” he said. “I saw [Metea Valley’s] game last week against Stevenson, and Stevenson had some early shots they could not convert. They have struggled with their starts, and I thought we could steal a goal.
“You’re always concerned when you score that quickly that you’re going to have a letdown, but with our defense, I felt pretty confident,” he said.
Snower said the Ramblers made no special defensive shadowing of the Mustangs’ stars. He said the team made a concerted effort to slow down Metea Valley freshman Elena Sidell, who’s been an offensive catalyst for the Mustangs. “I was afraid of her getting into the seams, but we stopped that and they pulled her out side the rest of the game,” Snower said.
The Mustangs (13-2) regrouped and nearly tied the game midway through the first half on a shot from about 35 yards out by senior star Christina Tomaras that hit the crossbar.
“That’s the story of the game,” Metea Valley coach Pat Feulner said. “Two shots hit the crossbar. Theirs went in and ours bounced off.”