WOODSTOCK — Due to a Marian Central school rule, freshman athletes cannot play on varsity teams during the regular season. So talented freshman forward Makala Villont spent the season playing on the JV team.
Hurricanes varsity head coach Karl Smith kept his eye on Villont and once the first round of the postseason came around, he didn't hesitate to call her up.
Villont made an impact right away, scoring two goals in the first half of a 4-2 victory over Woodstock North in the Class 2A Marengo regional quarterfinals. The Hurricanes (7-8) will move on to face Prairie Ridge on Tuesday.
"We knew going in that [Villont] would give us a spark and sure enough she did," Smith said.
Villont scored the Hurricanes' third goal of the first half and added another with two minutes to play before halftime. She used her speed to break free of a tentative Thunder defense and floated the ball to the far post for the first goal.
Thunder senior Shelby Nicholson scored a goal between Villont's two goals and got Woodstock North on the scoreboard before halftime.
"Varsity is a little faster and definitely more aggressive," Villont said. "I felt more and more confident as the game went on and once that first goal went in I thought to myself 'I can do this.' "
The Hurricanes controlled the flow with crisp passing and unrelenting pressure, which took the Thunder some time to adjus to. But while Marian Central looked dominant in scoring four goals, Smith said that hasn't always been the case lately.
He noted that chances have always been there but executing has been the issue so he was relieved when the Hurricanes jumped out to an early lead.
"We've been struggling to score goals, even though we've been playing well, so that was good to see," he said. "I thought we needed another goal in the second half to put them away but we weren't able to get it. We just didn't hit the target."
The Thunder made some mental adjustments at halftime and tightened up the play on both ends as they didn't allow a goal and scored a wild goal themselves amongst a slew of chances.
The play began as a Marian Central defender attempted to clear the ball but it didn't leave the zone as the ball hit the Thunder's Liliana Cruz in the face. The ball caromed off her face where teammate Tabitha Jakic controlled it and scored to cut the deficit to 4-2.
The Thunder (4-13) also had a few chances with less than three minutes to play but Nicolette Kruczek missed an open net by a few inches and another late flurry of shots couldn't find the back of the net.
"The second half just reminded them that they can't wait for the ball," Thunder coach Lauren Farley said. "And I brought it to the senior's attention that this could be your last time on the field, so leave it out there."