CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake South’s offense emerged from its shell a week ago. The only doubt in Anne Santucci’s mind was whether the Gators could break free from the mental block that had been holding them back all season.
With scoring concerns out of the way, Santucci wondered if chemistry issues that had been problematic at times had been solved just in time for South to begin its run at a Class 3A regional girls soccer championship this week.
It didn’t take long for Santucci to get her answer.
The Gators got goals from four different players – including two momentum-shifting scores in less than 30 seconds – as South rolled to a 5-0 semifinal victory over fourth-seeded Dundee-Crown on Tuesday in the South Regional.
With the win, the top-seeded Gators (12-7-1) face either second-seed Cary-Grove or third-seeded Jacobs in Friday’s all-Fox Valley Conference regional championship game. The Trojans and Golden Eagles square off in Wednesday’s other regional semifinal.
But for starters, Tuesday’s win was just what South was seeking, bouncing back from a loss to the Chargers earlier this spring.
“This is good motivation to help us get through,” said senior midfielder Mackenzie Taldone, whose back-to-back goals in the second half closed out South’s scoring. “We’ve definitely been put as underdogs during conference, and so we’re definitely pushing for regionals to show people how we actually are.”
South led 2-0 at the half after Bianca Miceli broke a scoreless tie with 12:48 remaining. Six minutes later, the Gators took advantage of the Chargers’ inability to clear the ball after a South corner kick. Bree Marshall picked up a loose ball and slipped a shot into the corner of the net.
For D-C (5-17), keeping the ball out of South’s offensive zone was only one of several concerns.
“We worked way too hard all season not to show up on an important game like this,” Chargers coach Sebastian Falinski said. “I think that was our biggest issue – I don’t think we wanted it at all. It just seemed like we were going through the motions.
At halftime, Santucci told her team to keep pressing.
After missing on a couple of golden opportunities early, Erin Woeste took a perfect crossing pass from Alexandra Romano and slipped a shot past D-C goalkeeper Isabel Miranda. Only 33 seconds later, Taldone struck for the first time, giving the Gators a commanding 4-0 lead. Romano and Kim Sulikowski each finished with two assists.
Now, South looks to take the next step against familiar foes C-G or Jacobs, teams the Gators went 2-0 against during the regular season.
“It’s a confidence booster, and I hope it rolls into Friday,” Santucci said. “We’ve kind of been building this momentum. ...Today, my girls decided they wanted it more and that they needed to make that statement.”