JOHNSBURG – Finding a way to consistently score has been a season-long quest for the Johnsburg soccer team.
The Skyhawks are talented, though young, and the maturation of inexperienced players has forced them to rely on their defense to wear down opponents over the course of a game. Johnsburg was tested by a talented Mundelein squad in Saturday's tournament finale of the Lady Hawk Invitational.
Mundelein dominated possession in the first half, leading to quality chances, but Johnsburg held its own.
The Skyhawks couldn't contain Kaila Cancelli, who scored two goals for Mundelein, and Johnsburg struggled to create enough offense to complete a comeback in a 3-1 loss to the Mustangs.
Mundelein won the tournament, finishing 3-0 while Johnsburg went 1-2. Johnsburg junior midfielder Delaney Pruitt scored on a penalty kick early in the second half to make it a 2-1 game, but the Skyhawks weren't able to pull any closer.
"I don't think that everyone came to play today," Pruitt said. "There were a couple people who were solid and could count on them for anything. But then it kind of lagged everywhere around the field. ... It wasn't good, but it wasn't horrible."
Johnsburg goalkeeper Amy Majercik (three saves) came up with a big save eight minutes into the game. She turned away a point-blank shot to keep the game scoreless.
Mundelein (6-1-2) finally broke through four minutes later. Cancelli took the ball off a Johnsburg (3-7) turnover near midfield and dribbled it into the box and got an open look. Majercik got a piece of Cancelli's shot, but it snuck inside the right post for a 1-0 Mundelein lead with 28:07 left in the first half.
"I thought we played well against them for quite a while," Johnsburg coach Rob Eastland said. "[Mundelein] had the pressure, and they were always going to be the stronger team. But it's good for our girls to come up against them because it prepares you a bit for conference."
The Skyhawks went into the half still trailing 1-0 but had a shot right in front of the net three minutes into the second half that would have tied the game. However, Mustangs goalkeeper Lexi Pawlowski deflected the close-range shot to maintain their lead.
Pawlowski's save set up a Johnsburg corner kick, which the Skyhawks couldn't take advantage of. With everyone on Johnsburg packed in near the box, it created a prime scoring chance for Mundelein. The Mustangs popped the ball over the last line of the Skyhawks' defense leading to a breakaway opportunity for Cancelli, which she converted for a 2-0 lead with 37:04 left in the game.
"Some different girls stepped up off the bench and got some good minutes for us so we're just building and trying to get better every game going forward," Mundelein assistant coach Heather Crawford said.
The Skyhawks finally got on the board thanks to Pruitt's penalty kick goal. A Mundelein defender fouled Pruitt in the box to set up the penalty kick. Pruitt easily converted the chance to cut the Mustangs' lead to 2-1 with 35:53 remaining.
The Mustangs tacked on another goal with 16:21 left in the game on Michele Chernesky's free kick that squirted past Johnsburg goalkeeper Amanda Cherwin's feet for a 3-1 advantage. Cherwin, who subbed in to start the second half, finished with seven saves and kept Johnsburg in the game with a couple impressive saves.
Eastland said both of his goalkeepers have played well enough to split equal time to this point of the season. That may change with Fox Valley Conference Fox Division play picking up next week as they determine whether Majercik or Cherwin match up better against each team.
"We're still a step or two away from where I think we should be, but I think a lot of that comes down to the youth on our team," Eastland said. "Just that little bit more experience, we'll be a step ahead."