Girls Soccer: Taylor Bucaro’s free kick goal lifts St Francis to first state title

Story Image Taylor Bucaro (top middle), is mobbed by St. Francis teammates after her long kick scored the Spartans' second goal in their 2-1 IHSA class 2A championship win over Glenwood on Saturday. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media

Updated: June 2, 2012 4:47PM

Taylor Bucaro changed her mind at the last second and because of that, St. Francis is second to none.

Bucaro, a junior defender, usually tries to cross the ball when she takes free kicks from the right wing, and that was what she intended when she teed up a 23-yarder late in Saturday’s Class 2A state championship match.

Instead, Bucaro ripped a beautiful shot into the upper left corner of the net with 5:13 remaining for what held up as the game-winning goal as St. Francis captured its first state title with a 2-1 win over Chatham Glenwood at North Central College in Naperville.

“I was going to cross it but then I saw my angle and it was a good angle, so I decide to take the shot and it went in,” Bucaro said. “There are no words to describe it. It was an amazing feeling. I was numb and so happy.”

Bucaro wasn’t the only defender who played a starring role for the Spartans (24-3), who capped their historic season with a nine-game winning streak.

With four minutes left in the first half and the game tied 1-1, Glenwood’s Maya Habibi got past charging St. Francis goalie Jenna DiTusa and fired a shot at the empty net from the right side of the penalty area. But junior defender Kate Roback raced back and cleared the ball off the goal line.

“I just knew at that moment that if I didn’t get back and stop that ball, that they were going to score,” Roback said. “So in my mind I just knew I had to get back in time to stop the ball.”

Andrea Ravlin had given the Spartans a 1-0 lead when she scored off an assist from Sydney Fox at the 31:17 mark of the first half, but the Titans (20-5-2) equalized six minutes later when Kassidy Sheedy took advantage of a bad bounce to get past DiTusa for an empty net goal.

But DiTusa came up big by making all three of her saves in the second half, including an incredible stop on a volley from point-blank range by Abby Kintworth. DiTusa showed her mettle by coming off her line several times to grab dangerous balls and throw-ins, twice getting shaken up in collisions for her trouble.

That grit epitomized the teamwork the Spartans used this season in winning state despite playing without all-time leading scorer Andi Matichak, who graduated early to pursue a modeling career.

“We knew last summer [Matichak was leaving], so we had a lot of time,” Bucaro said. “She was a great person to have on our team, but she wasn’t our whole team. We all stepped up.”

“We definitely missed her this year but it obviously didn’t hurt us at all,’’ Ravlin said. “I’m so proud of my team and what we’ve done this season to get here.”

The Spartans did it by blending a solid corps of returnees from a 2011 squad that reached the supersectional with four newcomers — freshmen Courtney Hart and Taylor Van Thournout and two club players, senior midfielder Amanda Gaggioli and junior defender Ally Mastroianni.

“Since the beginning of the season we all had the same goal, to go state, so we’ve been working hard as a team,” Bucaro said. “It just feels great being the first [state title] team, knowing that we worked together with our incoming freshmen and our other new players.”

St. Francis coach Jim Winslow was not surprised that his team won it all.

“It’s a really, really good group of kids,” Winslow said. “Whatever we talk about, they try to do. I’m lucky enough, I’m blessed, I’m humbled that you’ve got kids who are very good players on top of it and they’re capable of doing and accomplishing most of what we try to get them to do.

“You survive the state title runs; you don’t walk through these things. I thought if we could survive it, I thought we’d be this good and I thought honestly we could win the whole enchilada.”

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