HARVARD – For the third year in a row, rivals Richmond-Burton and Johnsburg will meet with a sectional berth on the line.
First-seeded R-B defeated Harvard, 9-0, and second-seeded Johnsburg was victorious over Marengo, 3-0, in Tuesday’s Class 1A Girls Soccer Harvard Regional. The teams will meet in the regional final at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Johnsburg overcame a 2-1 deficit in last year’s final and won, 3-2, en route to the school’s first state tournament. The Skyhawks made it all the way to the state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Quincy Notre Dame.
In the first semifinal Tuesday, sophomore Meghan Vasseur opened up the scoring with 28:29 remaining in the first half for R-B, connecting on a shot from the edge of the penalty box that went just over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Julissa Muralles (14 saves).
The goal came seconds after R-B coach Chris Wagner could be heard on the sidelines, imploring his players to “Get the ball on the frame.”
The Rockets scored five first-half goals, getting a pair of scores from Halley Havlicek and single tallies from Mikaela Winkler and Jessica Guenther.
“You only get so many opportunities in an important game like this,” said Winkler, who also recorded an assist. “You have to finish every opportunity you have.”
Vasseur and Guenther each added a second goal in the second half, and Camryn Davis and Lauren Otto scored to complete the scoring for R-B.
“We were relatively young, we didn’t have large numbers, but the girls really progressed throughout the season,” Harvard coach David Abel said. “We had some girls that never played the game before and they came in and filled important roles for us.
“I look at one of our seniors and our captains, Julissa Moralles, and she had a tremendous season for us, helping the younger girls on the team. You’ve got to keep their minds in the game and keep them focused until the end and she did that all season."
In the second semifinal, freshman forward Taylor Piggott scored with 33:18 remaining in the first half for Johnsburg (8-9-1), controlling a lob pass from Delaney Pruitt and beating two Marengo defenders to the box before sliding the ball into the lower right corner of the net.
The Indians (6-8) played it close for most of the game, but Johnsburg broke it open with two scores from Pruitt in the game's final 24 minutes. Pruitt’s first score came from about 15 yards out and landed in the top right corner over the head of goalkeeper Makayla Pfeiffer (14 saves).
“We’re just trying to come out strong, play 80 minutes and fight another day,” Pruitt said. “That’s our real motivation in all of this.
“These are some of my best friends and I don’t want to stop playing with them, and that’s how I feel it is all around.”
Marengo’s best scoring chance came with 18 minutes remaining, when senior forward Kate Kasch missed wide on a shot that traveled across the face of the goal. The Indians put seven shots on target, but couldn’t get any past goalkeeper Amanda Cherwin.
“It’s a game we could have won,” Marengo coach Jim McKinnon said. “We lost a center midfielder a couple weeks back and we have struggled ever since trying to fill that position.
McKinnon also praised his eight seniors after the game.
“My biggest problem is saying goodbye to all my seniors,” McKinnon said. “We’ve got eight, and they’ve been with me for four years. They’ve come a long way.”