Glenbard West edges Downers Grove North to reach first sectional final since 2000
After narrowly missing on an opportunity in the opening half, Kendall Walch was determined to find the back of the net if she got another chance.
All it took was the perfect pass.
Making a run into the middle of the penalty area, the senior forward got her foot on a cross from Emmie Roberts and the resulting goal stood up in Glenbard West's 1-0 victory over Downers Grove North in a Class 3A sectional semifinal.
"We talked about it at halftime," said Walch, whose goal came with 23:15 remaining. "We had way more chances than them (in the first half), we just had to put one away.
"The thing we always talk about is playing for your teammates. Emmie made an amazing pass and I just needed to get on the other end. I just stuck out my foot and it went over (the goalie)."
In improving to 14-6-1, the Hilltoppers advanced to a sectional final for the first time since 2000. To capture their first sectional championship since 1997, the team will have to knock off top-seeded Lyons Twp. on Friday.
The two West Suburban Silver foes met back on May 10 with the Lions (20-1) coming from behind to notch a 2-1 win.
"I've played them maybe seven times in my time here at West and haven't gotten a win yet," Roberts said. "I guess the sectional final would be the best place to get that first win. Our fan base has been amazing so we are super excited for Friday.
"It's a big deal. I think people are starting to be like, (Glenbard) West is coming on. So we are excited to have a chance on our home field."
After finally breaking through, Glenbard West's defense held firm against a spirited Trojans' offensive charge in the final 10 minutes. The back line of Elise Pollock, Emma Kluge, J Fox and Ellie Beaudoin was up to the task in front of goalkeeper Ava Callaway, who tallied her 11th shutout.
The sophomore made a diving save on the visitors' best chance, a low shot by Lily Johnson with 9:15 left.
"Our back four is amazing," Roberts said. "Their chemistry is unbelievable, plus they never let up. Every through ball, every 50-50 ball, they got to. And Ava is a brick wall back there."
Glenbard West had also beaten Downers Grove North by the same 1-0 margin on April 19.
"I think this game set up to be a defensive struggle," Glenbard West coach Adam Szyszko said. "I thought it was a great sectional game with a great crowd and a great environment.
"We've got a lot of experience in the back. They have a lot of soccer IQ and they play extremely hard. And Ava is an all-sectional goalie. She's been tremendous for us all year."
The Trojans finished the spring with a record of 11-9-2.
"Playoff games are going to be tight," Downers North coach Brian Papa said. "They had that one break. They countered on us and got that goal. Plus give credit to their defense, they were really sticking on us."
Elizabeth Reilly made 6 saves in goal for the Trojans.