Girls Soccer: Streaking West Aurora wins Rosary Invite
Updated: April 28, 2012 7:53PM
Having rediscovered the back of the opposition’s goal, West Aurora not only gained a five-match win streak, but the championship trophy from the 20th Annual Rosary Invitational.
In two contests earlier in the week, the Blackhawks suffered shutout losses because of their inability to finish their chances; that wasn’t the case Saturday. West Aurora took first in the tougher of two round-robin groups, then posted a 2-1 semifinal victory over Willows followed by a 4-0 championship triumph over St. Edward, appropriately enough the opposite group victor.
“It’s been three years since we even had a chance to play in the final game of this tourney, but being my senior year, it’s that much more awesome to win it,” said Jessica Saffell, who had at least a goal in all five Blackhawk wins. “Personally, it’s been a couple games too many of frustration, so today was a boost for me, but more importantly, I think it can be a real confidence boost for our entire team.”
With the tourney utilizing 20-minute halves, West Aurora’s Yulissa Espino scored just 6:47 into the title contest before Saffell had her second hat trick of the day to lead the Blackhawks (11-7-0) past a St. Edward program looking for an encore to last year’s fourth-place showing in Class 1A. In the semifinal win over Willows, Saffell assisted on a Sammie O’Brien goal with 14 seconds left before intermission and then tallied the matchwinner with 2:15 to play.
The Blackhawk senior began the morning with a hat trick in a 5-0 whitewash of Harvest Christian and then had both goals in a critical 2-1 win over tourney host Rosary. The first goal game 23 seconds prior to halftime and the matchwinner was with 2:14 left. In a 3-1 victory over Hinckley-Big Rock, Saffell assisted on the second of two Espino goals before netting the final goal. Her team-high 53 points is based on a team-best 23 goals plus seven assists.
“With the shortened halves, we had to find a way to start each match fast and I think that helped us get our offense in rhythm quickly,” West Aurora coach Laura Wagley said. “Hopefully, finding our way to finish plays again and adding this trophy to winning our own invite will help us move forward with more confidence for the post-season.”
The 2012 trophy marked the third time West Aurora has won the Rosary tournament with previous titles in 1996 and 2007.
St. Edward (14-6-1) was hoping to get a second title after having won in 2004. The Green Wave opened with a 0-0 deadlock against Willows before adding a 3-0 shutout of Joliet Catholic and a 4-1 win over IMSA. St. Edward used penalty kick conversions by Chelsea Gnan and Kathleen Duffy to top Rosary 2-0 in a semifinal. The win over IMSA helped Green Wave goalkeeper Paige Gannon break the school record for consecutive matches played by a keeper. Every match from here on will add to the senior’s current streak of 69 contests.
“We’re certainly proud of Paige and all she’s done but I’m also very proud and pleased with how the whole team performed throughout this tourney. We just ran out of gas in the final,” Green Wave coach Tim Brieger said.
The host Royals — who have nine crowns after last year’s triumph — came out of the tourney with a 14-4-0 record. However, they were missing half its usual starters and eight players total for the semifinal due to a conflict with a formal dance which forced coach Kristy Kane to use a mix of varsity reserves and junior varsity players.
“I still felt the players on the field for each of our matches played hard and gave a total effort. I’m certain the experience from this tournament will help us in the post-season,” Kane added.
Despite having begun group play with a 2-1 triumph over Joliet Catholic, IMSA came up short in a 2-0 rematch that served as the consolation championship match.
“As usual, we’ve had a slow start to the season but now we’re developing some real chemistry and playing better ball together as a team. We’re holding our positions and doing a much better job of possessing the ball and passing,” said IMSA coach Salvador Tamayo, whose squad is now 8-8-1.