Girls soccer: Morton ends Hinsdale Central's season
Vicky Ferrer was a little apprehensive when Morton coach Jim Bageanis sent her into the game during crunchtime on Saturday.
"I was going in the very few last minutes and I was so nervous," said Ferrer, a Morton senior. "All I could think about was don't mess up the game."
Ferrer didn't mess up the game. She won it by scoring a short-handed goal.
Ferrer's strike with 4:42 left in the second half put the Mustangs ahead to stay in an action-packed 4-3 victory over Hinsdale Central in the Class 3A Riverside-Brookfield Regional final.
It was the first regional championship since 2012 and fourth in program history for fourth-seeded Morton (17-5), which will play top-seeded Lyons (19-1) at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Glenbard West Sectional semifinals.
Ferrer, who had scored only one previous goal this season, delivered the game-winner against the run of play. Carisma Rosales sent a free kick from the right corner to the far side of the penalty area, where Brianna Avalos tracked it down and crossed it back to Ferrer in the middle of the box.
Ferrer, a Morton College recruit, settled the ball before rolling a right-footed 15-yard shot through traffic and inside the left post.
"She's got skill and she does always get around the ball," Bageanis said. "She's not afraid to the get around the ball and she was in the right spot.
"(Avalos) put a dangerous ball in there and anything can happen when you put it in the mixer."
The combination of Avalos' accurate pass and Ferrer's poise proved to be a perfect blend for the Mustangs.
"I just saw the ball coming toward me and all I could think about was 'It's now or never,' and I just shot it," Ferrer said. "Maybe it could have been a lucky shot and it was.
"When I saw it go in, I couldn't even believe myself. I was just overwhelmed with happiness."
The Mustangs spent the rest of the game holding on for dear life. Goalkeeper Krystal Rodriguez ended Hinsdale Central's final chance when she cut off a dangerous cross from Sidney Turnbull in the final seconds.
"I'm just proud of how our girls competed," Hinsdale Central coach Tony Madonia said. "They were relentless, like they have been all season.
"We played a great game, just like we did against R-B (a 2-1 shootout victory in the semifinals). But we had two teams who were scraping and clawing the whole game."
Indeed, the game had the feel of a prizefight, with the teams trading fouls and goals throughout.
Morton senior midfielder Andrea Aguirre and Hinsdale Central junior midfielder Carter Knotts each scored twice in the first half.
Aguirre tallied both of hers on brilliant free kicks. The first was a 36-yarder from the right wing that caromed high off the inside of the left post in to open the scoring at the 33:20 mark of the first half, and the second was a 25-yarder off the underside of the crossbar that gave the Mustangs a 3-2 lead with 1:47 remaining.
"It's funny because there have been games when she's deferred to someone else to take them," Bageanis said. "And we're standing on the end of the bench, baffled why she was giving that up."
The St. Francis-bound Aguirre wasn't going to give up any chances this time.
"I was in the moment," Aguirre said. "I took my chances and I got them in."
So, too, did Knotts, who tallied two goals 2:56 apart to put the Red Devils up 2-1. She scored the equalizer by deflecting in a long free kick from Ava Elliott, then scored on a breakaway off a feed from Turnbull.
But Morton answered when Aguirre made a steal and split the middle of the defense with a through ball to Rosales, who converted the breakaway.
The Red Devils dominated the second half action, especially after Gongora's ejection. Rodriguez had to leave the game briefly when she got a yellow card for a foul in the box, but backup goalkeeper Fernando Sanchez Duran came in and denied Knotts on the ensuing penalty kick.
Two minutes later, the Red Devils were awarded another penalty. This time Turnbull beat Rodriguez to tie the game at 3-3.
But the Mustangs were resilient.
"They earned it today," Bageanis said. "They had to play a man down for 20 minutes."
For Aguirre, moments like holding the regional championship plaque are the reason she joined the Mustangs after playing club soccer her first three seasons.
"This is my first year playing, and obviously my last," Aguirre said. "It felt really good making that history."