ROSELLE – When St. Charles East scored a goal with 28 minutes remaining in Tuesday's Class 3A Lake Park Supersectional game, Huntley knew it had to do something it had not done all season if it wanted to make the trip to the state tournament. They needed to win a game in which they allowed a goal.
The Red Raiders were unable to break that streak, falling to St. Charles East 2-0, and ending their season.
"We ran into a very good team," coach Kris Grabner said. "I'm so proud of the way my girls fought not just today, but this whole season. Once they got the first goal, we changed some things formation-wise and just couldn't get much going."
St. Charles East (18-4-5) made things very difficult for Huntley as the Red Raiders weren't able to create many scoring chances. Huntley tallied just four shots on goal, none of which seriously threatened. The teams looked similar for the entire first half with strong defensive play.
The game went to halftime scoreless with a slight edge to St. Charles East in possession.
The Saints were able to break through on Huntley goalkeeper Jessica Galason, but not easily. A cross from East's Shannon Rasmussen was headed on goal by Darcy Cunningham, forcing a diving save from Galason.
The ball was played back across the goal mouth and partially cleared off the goal line by Huntley's Rachel Zobott. The ball went right to East's Rion Gaffney, who drilled a left-footed shot into the upper left corner.
"After a scoreless first half, and little bit of the second half, it really turned into a playoff soccer game," East coach Paul Jennison said. "It really was going to be whoever scored first was going to win. They are the fastest team we have played all tournament long and made things very tough for us. Fortunately we broke through there on the scramble."
The Saints nearly doubled their lead just two minutes later after a turnover on an attempted clearance by Galason. The senior keeper came out to clear the ball, but passed it right to East's Kelli Santo Paolo, who shot it at an empty net. Galason ran backwards, diving and punching the ball up in the air and over the crossbar.
"She's such an incredible keeper," Huntley senior Beth Parks said of Galason. "She gave us a chance today with a couple of big saves. She was great all season."
For Huntley (19-7), Galason was not able to stop the next shot she faced. Santo Paolo crossed a ball to Cunningham, who headed the ball into the net, giving East its 2-0 lead.
"It's obviously hard to lose at this point," Galason said. "But we proved so many people wrong who thought we couldn't get anywhere near this far, and making it all the way to Supersectionals is a huge thing in itself."
Grabner said that he was forced to change up formations quite a bit once East got on the board, but credited the Saints on minimizing his team's opportunties.
"We had to make adjustments because their midfield was so strong," Grabner said. "We brought more players into midfield positions, but that left us with one forward, making it hard to build off. I give them a lot of credit for taking us out of our rhythm."
Many of the Red Raiders' seniors were brought to tears as the final buzzer rang at Lake Park High School.
"We gave it our all and when we walk away from it, we have to remember that," Parks said. "We had such a strong, together team all season and I could not be more proud of what we accomplished and how much closer we became because of that."