High School Sports

Collinsville closes season strong with victory in third-place game

Collinsville seniors on Kahoks' place in state soccer tournament

Alynnah O'Leary and Morgan Lerch talk about the Kahoks placing third in state soccer tournament
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Alynnah O'Leary and Morgan Lerch talk about the Kahoks placing third in state soccer tournament

Collinsville didn’t capture the top prize, but the Kahoks were anything but dissatisfied with how their season closed Saturday.

After a disappointing 2-1 loss in two overtimes to New Trier on Friday, Collinsville rebounded Saturday with a 4-2 win over Downers Grove North in the third-place game of the Class 3A state tournament.

Senior Alynnah O’Leary had two goals, seniors Bianca Cortez and Emily Holten had one apiece and freshman Destiny Johnson contributed two assists as the Kahoks (20-7-1) overcame an early 1-0 deficit.

“That shows our team character,” seventh-year Collinsville coach Clay Smith said. “Coming in here after a battle (Friday) night and the disappointment of not beating a good New Trier team, and coming from a goal behind, it really shows how resilient these kids are.”

In the last three years, Collinsville has placed fourth, second and third.

“The seniors, it’s not the way they wanted to go out,” Smith said of finished third. “But you know what? There’s not a lot of seniors that get to end this way. It’s fantastic.”

Senior goalie Morgan Lerch was outstanding, collecting six saves. Lerch made three circus saves in the first half, keeping Collinsville’s deficit 1-0 as she stonewalled senior Kelly Doro in the 18th minute and senior Simone Gardner in the 23rd minute.

After O’Leary scored unassisted inside the left post at 24 minutes, 58 seconds to make it 1-1, Lerch made another impressive save in the 36th minute.

“She was great this tournament,” Smith said of Lerch. “She made the saves that she needed to save and kept us in this game with some great saves. Morgan was athletic enough to be like that all year. She takes responsibility of, ‘Yeah, I need to get better,’ and she has. She worked hard.”

Lerch said she “wanted to end it strong.”

“It feels great,” Lerch said. “It was a hard loss (Friday) night, but stuff happens in soccer.”

O’Leary again scored unassisted from deep in the box, putting the Kahoks ahead 2-1 with 42 seconds left in the half.

“We had a great second half and a great end of the first half,” O’Leary said. “We came together with leadership and we made it. It was hard at the beginning. You could tell we had tired legs from (Friday) night with the double-overtime. But during a water break, Coach got us motivated and we came together as a team.”

Cortez’s goal on Johnson’s first assist made it 3-1 at 42:47, and Holten made it 4-1 with a 25-yard blast from Johnson at 74:36.

“Alynnah has basically been playing with one arm this postseason because of an injury,” Smith said. “It was just a gutsy performance by her, getting to the ball and getting it into the back of the net.”

After the game, Collinsville’s players and coaches slipped on pink shirts in memory of Kelley Liljegren, a teacher at the high school who died at age 45 on March 2 after a 13-year battle with breast cancer.

Faith Liljegren, Kelley’s daughter, shared a long hug with Smith after the game and was visibly moved as the Kahoks walked off the field.

“Faith has gutted it out,” Smith said. “It’s tough on all of us. We dedicated this year to Faith and her family. We know we have an angel smiling down on us today. ... We played the way that we thought she would want us to play. Kelley was a big part of our community, our school and our team.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm