Marian Central takes second in 2AMarian Central's Laura LeFevour maneuvers past Triad defender Madalyn VanPelt. | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 4, 2011 7:42PM
An inch here. An inch there. That’s how close Marian Central came to winning its first state championship Saturday.
The Hurricanes waited through a 95-minute lightning delay and fought hard for four overtimes before losing to Troy Triad 2-1 on penalty kicks in the Class 2A title match at Naperville Central.
Triad, which captured its first state championship, won the shootout 4-1 to negate a great defensive effort by Marian Central (20-10), which lost both of its shootouts this season.
“We haven’t had much luck with penalty kicks,” Marian senior forward Susan Thomas said. “We gave it all we had. We did the best we could and I’m so proud of our team.”
While the Knights (21-2-1) converted all four of their penalty kicks, the Hurricanes went 1-for-3. Pierre Bailey made her attempt but sandwiched around that were shots by Tess Bottorff and Robin Wenzel that hit the post. Bottorff’s try struck the right post while Wenzel’s found the left.
“Tess and Robin are really upset about hitting the post,” Thomas said. “I’m like it was one unlucky inch, don’t be upset. Second in state (when) Marian has never even been here. I don’t like how it ended but I’m so, so proud of our team.”
Wenzel, a sophomore defender, had to do double duty in the shootout as Marian coach Kristian Rockall elected to put her between the pipes even though she had never played goal before. His reasoning was Wenzel’s speed would allow her to charge off the line faster than regular goalie Kaitlyn Logan.
“I’m not going to look back in hindsight and say I should have done this, should have done that,” Rockall said. “That was what my instinct was to put Robin in goal. It just wasn’t to be today. That’s the way it goes. I’ve won PK shootouts and I’ve lost them.”
That the Hurricanes even made it to the shootout was a surprise. Triad took a 1-0 lead with 5:22 left in the first half on a 33-yard free kick that Rachel Tejada lasered off the inside of the right post. It was the Illinois State signee’s 40th goal of the season.
Despite Tejada’s tireless efforts to get loose in the Marian box, the Hurricanes’ back line held firm thanks to the Illinois Wesleyan-bound Bottorff, who headed several balls out of danger and shadowed Tejada constantly.
“We knew (Tejada) is incredible,” Bottorff said. “She is so strong on the ball. We had to shut her down and I think we did during this game. I’m proud of us for that.”
The Hurricanes tied the game with 18:18 left in regulation when Thomas swerved a 21-yard free kick over the Triad wall and under the crossbar. It was just the 12th goal surrendered by the Knights and second in the last 10 matches.
“I’ve been working so hard all season to get it low because I’ve been shanking like no other,” Thomas said. “I didn’t even think it went in. At first I thought this was like a dream and I was just day-dreaming in the middle of the field and all of a sudden I was like, “We’re good!’”
Triad had one more chance in regulation, but Tejada missed a shot just wide of the left post with 2:00 left and the overtime marathon began.
Triad nearly won in the second overtime when Brianna Schmitt drilled a 35-yard shot off the underside of the crossbar. The ball came down on the goal line before being grabbed by Logan (seven saves).
Two minutes later, a thunderstorm arrived, forcing everyone inside. The Knights had popsicles, while the Hurricanes tried to catch their breath.
“It was a great showcase for soccer and I’m glad a lot of people got to see it because we played well,” Rockall said. “In the last 10 minutes of overtime you could see we had nothing left and we somehow found enough to stop them scoring and that makes me proud of them.”
In the end, confidence may have been the difference in the shootout.
“We were pretty confident coming in,” said Tejada, who called the match the most exciting, long and tiring match she’s played. “We’ve been practicing PKs for a couple weeks now. (Goalie) Kassidi (Nudd) wasn’t really nervous and that’s always a plus. They came really close, hitting the post twice, so it was in the right spot, just a little far off.”
“I hate going to PKs,” Bottorff said. “They just feel so unfair after playing so hard. Second place in state, I don’t want to sound ungrateful for that. That’s a great accomplishment. No one would have thought we would be here after starting 2-7.”
That’s the correct perspective, in Rockall’s view.
“Often PKs makes (losing) 10 times worse,” Rockall said. “What made it easier today was we lost to a fantastic team, a great group of girls and it was the best game of soccer I’ve ever been involved in coaching. Both teams were awesome and we played our best game of the season. I’m happy and I’m hoping some of these girls look at it that way.”