NAPERVILLE — A little selfishness led to a lot of success for Annabelle Copeland and her Marquette Catholic teammates on Saturday.
The normally pass-first junior forward unleashed eight shots, three of which went in, in the Class 1A third-place game at North Central College.
Copeland’s hat trick lifted the Explorers to a 4-2 victory over Williamsville.
“We keep telling her every game she’s got to do what her God-given talent allows her to do,” Marquette coach Steve Mitchell said. “He gave her the talent to play the game and score goals and she just finally started pushing the ball.”
Copeland entered the state finals with a team-leading 14 goals and was tied with junior Elisa Senno for the team lead in assists with eight.
But after the Explorers (15-10-3) lost to eventual state champion Wheaton Academy 3-0 in Friday’s semifinals, Mitchell had another talk with her.
“She’s so unselfish with the ball,” Mitchell said. “She likes to pass it off a lot, but finally we told her there’s no shame in taking it yourself sometimes. So it finally paid off.”
Copeland’s first shot, a rebound from seven yards out, tied the game 1-1 with 25:52 remaining in the first half.
“Steve, the whole season, that’s what he’s been telling me to do, just beat some players and get a shot off,” Copeland said. “I finally did it and it worked out.”
Emboldened by her early success, Copeland attacked the Williamsville defense with vigor. Three minutes later, Williamsville goalkeeper Lilly Doneghue kept the game tied with a pair of impressive saves on back-to-back drives from Copeland.
Doneghue made nine saves for the Bullets (22-4), who had not lost back-to-back games all season.
But she couldn’t reach Copeland’s 27-yard rocket that went under the crossbar at the 8:01 mark of the first half and gave Marquette the lead for good.
Copeland beat Doneghue again with 19:48 to go in the second half, breaking through the left side of the defense and converting from a sharp angle to make it 3-1.
“(The hat trick) is exciting, for sure,” Copeland said. “But I think it’s just more exciting to be around my team and to get the goals for them so we can all win.”
The Explorers needed every one of them because Marah Abu-Tayeh tallied her second goal of the game just 16 seconds after Copeland’s third goal to pull the Bullets within 3-2.
Junior midfielder Claire Dalton responded by scoring her sixth goal of the season on a breakaway at the 16:03 mark to finish the scoring.
Copeland’s hat trick was just the second ever in a 1A state game. Ironically, Marquette’s Nicki Wisnasky had the other one, which came in a 5-0 win over Herscher in the 2011 final.
Marquette’s defense, led by juniors Anna Boschert and Kelsie Blasingim and sophomore Rebekah Johnes, allowed only five shots.
But the first one went in. Abu-Tayeh gave the Bullets a 1-0 lead 8:26 into the game when she ran onto a corner kick from her sister Farah and booted an eight-yard shot that deflected off a defender and Marquette goalkeeper Lauren Fischer.
“I think we had to tell each other that it’s okay,” Marquette senior forward Lauren Schmickley said. “We still had the whole game to play.
“We just had to get our heads back in it. I think that’s what we did.”
Mitchell was impressed with how the Explorers did that. They did not allow another shot until early in the second half.
“We came out real flat but (the kids) kept battling,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know if took 10 minutes to get warmed up, but they showed a lot of heart to come back, especially when it starts out 1-0.”
The victory allowed Marquette’s small senior class, led by Schmickley and fellow co-captains Bailey Hartrich and Adrianna Schindler, to end their careers with a victory. It also means the Explorers, who won their fourth state trophy, will have a good chance of returning to state next season.
“It’s motivation for next year, for sure,” Copeland said. “It’s sad that the seniors are leaving, but it also shows that we have enough players here that we can come back and do it again.”
Schmickley, who will continue her career at St. Charles Community College, was pleased with how the Explorers bounced back from the loss to Wheaton.
“We just didn’t want to make the same mistake twice and (we wanted to) just come out with a win,” she said. “It just (means) leaving Marquette on a good note.”