Willows seeks more than first state trophy
Updated: May 26, 2011 6:28PM
No matter what happens at the Class 1A girls soccer state finals this weekend at Naperville Central, Willows Academy will be bringing home something special.
The all-girls Catholic school in Des Plaines, which has an enrollment of 120, is assured of earning the first state trophy by any sports team in the school’s 38-year history.
The Eagles (16-3-2), who had never won a regional until last year, advanced with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Independent School League-rival Francis Parker in Tuesday’s sectional final. They will face Herscher (18-1-1) in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
“It’s pretty electric around here,” said Willows coach Amy McMahon, who is also the school’s athletic director. “They just have a lot of perseverance and it’s been a lot of hard work and determination.”
The Willows program began in 2001 and won its first regional in 2010. McMahon said that was a breakthrough that set the stage for this season’s success.
“After we won the regional last year, it built up the confidence of the girls,” McMahon said. “A lot of the girls play two or three sports and seeing the trophy is going to give them confidence and motivation to work harder.”
Senior forward Kate Dunaway has 28 goals and 12 assists to lead the Eagles, who are strong up the middle with senior sweeper Mo Brown, sophomore stopper Megan Brinckerhoff and sophomore center midfielder Keelin McNally. Brown scored the game-winner against Parker, thus avenging an earlier defeat, on a header off a corner kick, while the other two give Willows hope for the future.
“[Brinckerhoff and McNally] are sophomores but they play like seniors,” McMahon said. “They are constantly going 100 percent after every ball and they never give up.”
Willows and Herscher have not played each other, but both easily beat Lisle and Westmont, their only common opponents. Herscher, which avenged its only loss by knocking out 2009 champion and 2010 runner-up Manteno 1-0 in a shootout, is led by Taylor Devine (18 goals, 10 assists), Emily Rosenboom (14 goals, 14 assists), Bri Ferrias (13 goals, 7 assists) and Kaitlyn Reynolds (11 goals, 12 assists). Goalie Loryn Bruer, who has 15 shutouts and seven goals allowed, made two saves in the shootout against Manteno.
“I think it’s going to be another exciting game,” said McMahon, whose team has won three straight one-goal matches. “I think it’s going to be a nail-biter. Anything can happen and that’s the way it’s been for us the whole tournament.”
The 7:30 p.m. semifinal pits St. Edward against Alton Marquette (17-5-1), the 1A runner-up in 2009. St. Edward (14-7-3) secured its first soccer trophy — boys or girls — with a thrilling 2-1 sectional final victory over Rockford Lutheran. Junior defender Callie Johnson won the game in the second overtime with her first career goal after freshman Allison Kruk tied it with 18:04 left in the first half.