Photo by Bill Roseberry
Marquette head coach Steve Mitchell embraces his girls’ soccer players after the Explorers punched their ticket to the 1A state tournament on Tuesday. They bested Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin 1-0 after three rounds of PKs at the 1A University of Illinois Springfield Super-Sectional on Tuesday at UIS.
For the first time since 2013 and the fourth time in school history, the Marquette Catholic Explorer girls’ soccer team is headed to state.
Marquette defeated Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin 1-0 in the second round of sudden death penalty kicks and third round of PKs overall on Tuesday in the Class 1A University of Illinois Springfield Super-Sectional.
After SHG’s Catie Costa was stopped by Explorer goalie Lauren Fischer in the third wave of PKs, sophomore Lauren Walsh scored, sending the Marquette players, coaches and fans into a state of euphoria.
The Explorers will battle West Chicago (Wheaton Academy) at 5 p.m. tonight in the 1A state semifinals at North Central College in Naperville. Wheaton Academy defeated LaGrange Park (Nazareth Academy) 2-1 in the Concordia University Super-Sectional on Tuesday.
State will conclude on Saturday with the 1A state title game and the third-place match.
“We just want to have a good time, play our best and we’re just happy we got there,” Walsh said following Tuesday’s win. “I’m just really proud of all of us. We’ve had a great season.”
The Explorers improved to 14-9-3 with the win over SHG. For head coach Steve Mitchell, it’s like getting a monkey off his back heading back to state.
Mitchell’s first season at the helm of the Marquette program was ‘13, when the Explorers took third place. Since then they haven’t been able to travel the right route back to Naperville, instead running into a roadblock in the supers in the form of Rochester the last two years.
Now the defending 1A state champion Rockets have bumped up to 2A and Marquette has found the avenue to state open once again.
“This is the same group,” Mitchell said, referring to his senior class who went to state as freshmen. “I think they’re battle-tested. We make the schedule tough for a reason and I think when we get up there they will be ready. They battled a hard Gibault team, then a tough Columbia team and now they just battled again, so I think they’re battle-tested. I think they’re ready, but we’ll soon see.”
Fischer added, “I think it means a lot to Steve and it means the most to our seniors and I’m glad to be a part of that with them. It’s their last year and I’ve never been to state before, so this will be very fun for me.
“I think a lot of people kind of doubted us this year. We had our ups and downs, but I’m just glad we got over it and were able to make it to where we are now.”
Senior Adriana Schindler was one of those freshmen that went to state in ‘13. She got injured early in that tournament, but she believes the experience of being there before will be greatly beneficial this time around. The other seniors who were on the roster in ‘13 are Bailey Hartrich and Lauren Schmickley.
“Usually going to state is not something you get to do, so you can’t take it for granted,” Schindler said. “I think we’ll play hard like we did (Tuesday) and hopefully we’ll come back with first place.”
The program has one of those prodigious state trophies already, winning it all at the 1A tournament in 2011. That season the Explorers bested Herscher 5-0 in the state finals.
One thing is, with three straight rounds of PKs prior to getting to state, they have hopefully polished their games.
Marquette beat Gibault 1-0 in the Althoff Sectional semifinals, then Columbia 2-1 in the sectional finals on PKs. Fischer said the goal this weekend is to win a game in regulation.
“I think we should not go into penalty kicks and try and score some goals during regulation, so we don’t have to do that again,” Fischer said, chuckling.
Walsh just hopes the Explorers can keep the success train rolling at state, PKs or not. She’s happy the winning formula has come together in the postseason after a regular season that had its ups and downs.
“It’s not over yet and I’m proud of us,” she said.
A win tonight will propel Marquette into the state finals at 5 p.m. on Saturday. If the Explorers lose they will play in the third-place match at 3 p.m. The other semifinal tonight pits Williamsville against Woodstock (Marian) at 7 p.m.
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