WOODSTOCK – The Kaneland girls soccer team made a strong second-half push against top-seeded Crystal Lake Central in the Class 2A Woodstock North Regional title match Friday. But it wasn’t enough.
Central sophomore forward Emma Bolanowski’s two-goal effort helped give the Tigers a 3-1 win and their first regional championship since 2009 – and only their second in program history – leaving the fourth-seeded Knights (10-10-1) to ponder what might have been.
“One bounce or deflection our way here or there, and it’s just as easily us standing out there celebrating with that plaque,” Kaneland coach Scott Parillo said. “But that’s just the way the ball bounces sometimes. I was really proud of our effort.”
The Tigers (17-3) struck first about 17 minutes into the match, when senior Taylor Bittenbender’s left-footed blast from about 30 yards away seemed to catch Kaneland goalkeeper Emma Ball off guard. The ball kept gaining elevation as it hooked right to left toward the upper left corner of the net, over the head and outstretched arms of Ball.
Central made it 2-0 shortly before halftime, when junior Grace Anderson drew a foul only feet from the Kaneland net. Bolanowski then converted the ensuing penalty kick, which also was toward the upper left of the goal.
“We sort of had to chase the lead at that point, and that’s not exactly the most enviable position to be in, obviously,” Parillo said.
But Kaneland refused to give in. Five minutes into the second half, Knights senior Grace Purcell beat Tigers goalkeeper Nora Ryan low to the right side of the net, cutting Central’s advantage to 2-1.
“After halftime, I thought we adjusted nicely,” Parillo said. “Early on, we were standing around spectating a little too much, and letting the play come to us, rather than taking it to them.”
Bolanowski finished the scoring with five seconds remaining. Defensively, Central’s back line of Ellie Montford, Abbey Kramer, Kennedy Kruse and Madeline Anderson limited the quality of Kaneland’s opportunities.
Crystal Lake Central advances to face Boylan in a Hampshire Sectional semifinal on Tuesday at 5 p.m. They didn't face them during the regular season.