After an extended absence, the Collinsville High girls soccer team is back in the state tournament.
Senior Abby Wicklein and sophomores Alynnah O’Leary and Emily Holten had second-half goals Tuesday and junior Kitty Besserman had two assists to lead the Kahoks past Stagg 3-0 in the Class 3A Normal Super-Sectional.
The victory qualifies Collinsville (21-3-1) for its berth at state since 2002 when it lost to Evanston in the quarterfinals of the Class AA tournament.
“They had some threats up top that they could counter with, and that’s a problem when you play a game like that and you press and have so many opportunities,” Collinsville coach Clay Smith said, noting the Kahoks’ dominance in the first half that reaped no rewards. “You get a little lackadaisical in the back.
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“But I tell you what: Our back four and our goalkeepers don’t get enough credit. They’ve had shutout after shutout this year and they continued to get it done today. I didn’t count them, but I think (Stagg) probably only had two real good scoring opportunties throughout the entire match, maybe three. I couldn’t be more proud of the back four. And the rest of the girls just have composure and put the ball in the back of the net.”
It was the 15th shutout of the season for the Kahoks (21-3-1), who will play Neuqua Valley in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday at North Central College in Naperville. Stagg finished 22-4.
Sophomore Morgan Lerch and junior Julie Scheiter shared the shutout in goal with strong work from defenders like Besserman, juniors Chayse Richardson and Caydren Jones, sophomore Dayle McEwen and senior Tori Ford.
“My two goalkeepers have been splitting time all year,” Smith said. “They’ve battled and they both deserve to play. Unfortunately, we can only play one and they’ve agreed on it. They’re doing a great job and it’s a great problem to have.”
The Kahoks controlled the action in the first half, stressing the Chargers’ defense but being turned away on each occasion. Besserman, O’Leary and sophomore Andrea Frerker all had quality chances in the first 40 minutes without converting.
Stagg, meanwhile, had a chance to take a lead in the second half when freshman Allison Mussallem took a pass from her sister, senior Hannah Mussallem, and broke down the middle third of the field. But the Kahoks recovered on defense and Allison Mussallem was only able to get a weak shot on goal that was easily stopped by Scheiter.
Besserman and O’Leary teamed up to give the Kahoks the only goal they needed at 45 minutes, 17 seconds. Besserman’s corner kick from the right side carried to the far post, where O’Leary ripped a one-time volley to make it 1-0.
“I think we just calmed down a little bit and it helped relieve the pressure,” O’Leary said of her go-ahead goal. “(The corner kick) was perfect, right to the back corner. If I wouldn’t have finished it, I probably would have been really mad at myself.”
Fifteen minutes later, Besserman got possession of the ball in the center of the field and was unmarked as she pushed forward. She found Wicklein open on the left side and Wicklein blasted a shot past Chargers senior goalie Claire Heneghan to make it 2-0 at 60:29.
“(Besserman) got the ball, I looked up and I had no one on me,” Wicklein said. “I got so excited when she played me the ball. That relieved the pressure 10,000 times more.”
Holten closed the scoring at 78:19, hitting a shot from in front that was deflected by a Stagg defender before eluding the grasp of Heneghan.
Besserman has been playing her best soccer in the last month.
“Kitty is a great player,” Smith said. “She’s been asked to play in positions this year where she’s not really comfortable, and she does it all. I call her our Jose Oquendo of soccer. She doesn’t know who that is, but yeah, she’s phenomenal. She makes smart decisions with the ball and gets it done. That was a great ball in on the corner. She’s really added a lethal threat to our corner kicks.”
Besserman said her solid play of late is “great timing because it’s postseason.”
“Now we’re finally going to state, so it’s great timing for me to step up,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing. Only one other (Collinsville) team placed at state (1988), so we’re going to try to make history.”
Smith believes the Kahoks have what it takes to win the state tournament, although New Trier, it’s potential opponent in the title game, is highly regarded.
“I put together the hardest schedule I could for them on purpose,” Smith said. “We’re one of the final four in the state. We’ll go up there and take our chances.”
Senior Abby Wicklein and sophomores Alynnah O’Leary and Emily Holten scored second-half goals and junior Kitty Besserman had two assists Tuesday as the Collinsville High girls soccer team blanked Stagg 3-0 to win the Class 3A Normal Super-Sectional.
The victory sends the Kahoks (21-3-1) to the state tournament for the first time since 2002 when they lost to Evanston in the quarterfinals. Stagg finished 22-4.
The goals: After a scoreless first half, O’Leary scored on a one-time volley off a corner kick by Besserman to put the Kahoks ahead 1-0 at 45 minutes, 17 seconds. It was O’Leary’s sixth goal of the season.
Wicklein made it 2-0 at 60:29, accepting a pass in the top of the left box from Besserman and hitting a shot inside the right corner of the netting.
Holten culminated the scoring at 78:19, hitting a shot that was deflected by a defender before eluding the hands of Chargers senior goalie Claire Heneghan.
The defense: Collinsville defense was in step once again, limiting Stagg’s opportunities throughout the game. Coach Clay Smith credited the play of Besserman, juniors Chayse Richardson and Caydren Jones, sophomore Dayle McEwen and senior Tori Ford. Goalies Morgan Lerch, a sophomore, and Julie Scheiter, a junior, shared the shutout in goal.
Up next: Collinsville will play Neuqua Valley in the semifinals of the state tournament at North Central College in Naperville at 5 p.m. Friday.