CRYSTAL LAKE – Clearly the most interesting one-on-one battle was between Crystal Lake South's midfielder Amy Sulikowski and Cary-Grove defender Brittany Loehner.
Both seniors worked hard Friday in the Class 3A Crystal Lake South Regional final.
"I'm the last person on defense,'' Loehner said. "And [Sulikowski] played really hard. She's one of the best players I've ever played against."
Those two played to a standstill, setting the tone for this matchup of rivals. A scoreless tie led to overtime, where each team scored once, and finally penalty kicks, where Krystal Felderman made a save on South's fourth kick. C-G won the shootout, 5-3, for a 2-1 victory.
The Trojans will face Boylan on Tuesday in the Jacobs Sectional semifinals.
"We knew we were the underdogs,'' Loehner said. "And that was perfect for us. We knew South would come out confident. But we figured we had nothing to lose."
For the longest time it looked like neither team would be able to score. Some shots went toward the keepers, but none required difficult saves.
"It was a battle,'' C-G coach Ray Krystal said. "There was no quit on either side. The fans got their money's worth."
The scoreless tie went to overtime. Another 10 minutes went by with no threats. Finally, C-G's Genna Sobieszczyk got loose. She put up a high shot, and keeper Jaclyn Przbylski made a strong play on it, but the ball somehow trickled in for the first goal.
The home team wasn't ready to surrender. There was still six minutes to play in overtime. The time continued to trickle away from the Gators, but with 66 seconds left in the Gators' season, sophomore Bree Marshall scored the tying goal.
"We could have given up after they scored that goal,'' South coach Anne Santucci said. "But we came back."
The match went to penalty kicks. And both keepers, Felderman for the Trojans and Przybylski were tested. C-G (10-5-1) won the title on South's fourth shot. That's when Felderman made her stop.
"She was strong the entire season,'' Loehner said.
Krystal agreed with that assessment.
"She was close on everything,'' Krystal said. "She's part of an amazing senior class."
And with Felderman's impressive stop, and a follow-up goal from senior Cory Levels, the Trojans were marching toward the sectional.
South finished the season at 12-8-2.
"We have a long history of a rivalry with Cary,'' Santucci said. "We really didn't want it to go to penalty kicks. But I really liked this team's sense of unity. They wanted to play for each other, and that's what they did."