BURBANK – Third place games can be an exercise in determination.
State finals third place games often produce a mixed bag of results, with teams coming off frustrating losses in a state semifinal that deflated their dreams of capturing a championship.
Third place games, in the first few weeks of a season in a tournament, can veer in the same direction, especially soccer games played in cold and windy conditions.
Thursday’s third place game in the Windy City Ram Classic between Glenbrook South, ranked no. 20 in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, and Lincoln-Way East was a test of wills. With the game starting 18 minutes late, and the intense title game matchup of Lockport and Lincoln-Way Central gaining the bulk of the attention in the main grandstand, the Titans and Griffins played second fiddle on a faraway barren field.
One of the biggest highlights in the third place game came off the field. Late in the first half, when the main grandstand started playing music, several players from both teams starting singing and swaying back and forth to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
Both teams overcame sluggish first half starts to piece together an inspiring showing in the final 35 minutes of the 70-minute game. Lincoln-Way East junior defender Thea Gerfen scored the winning goal, blasting home a free kick from 38 yards with 22:19 left in regulation for a 1-0 victory.
In the Windy City Ram Classic title game, Lockport and Lincoln-Way Central were locked in a memorable battle that caused most of Lincoln-Way East’s players to watch the final minutes of the game from the fences. Lincoln-Way Central won the game to capture its second-straight Windy City Classic championship. After a scoreless regulation and overtimes, the Knights won the penalty kick shootout 5-3 to stay unbeaten on the season at 5-0.
Meanwhile, Gerfen said she was happy her first goal of the season factored into a victory.
“I kind of just decided to step up and knew it was getting down to the wire, and I just wanted to take the shot and hope it went in,” Gerfen said. “I just really felt good when I was walking to get ready to attempt it. It was a good first goal of the season for me.
“It feels good to get third. We were little down losing in the semifinals, so we were glad to at least take home third place. That was really nice.”
Glenbrook South (3-2-0) opened Thursday’s game still feeling the effects of a stunning 2-1 defeat to Lockport in the semifinals. Lockport’s Heather Canny knocked in the winning goal from 40 yards out with 38 seconds left in the second overtime. The Titans finished fourth in the tournament for the second year in a row.
“This is a nice tournament,” Glenbrook South coach Mark Daniels said. “We’ve made it two years in a row to the Final Four. We’re in the fourth place groove right now. This is a really nice, fun team to coach.
“We’re missing some key starters for this game. We’re fine, but we were little down today with some girls sick too.
“I think defensively as a team we’re coming together. We’re struggling to possess and connect to the attack, to create scoring opportunities. That’s been our M.O. the last couple of games. We’re hungry defensively but not able to do what we need to create something to score. We played well enough for a tie, but we’re fine. We’re a solid team and just trying to get our bearings.”
At 4-1-0 on the season, Lincoln-Way East coach Michael Murphy said the tournament was a good way to start the season for his team.
“I thought this was a very good game, and we played very well,” Murphy said. “I thought we did some nice things possession-wise. I thought in the second half we came out with a lot of energy and put a lot of pressure on them. (Glenbrook South) is a very nice team.
“I have to give props to Reavis for hosting this tournament with 32 teams. I give our girls credit for putting some balls in some dangerous spots, and I think we limited their chances.
“The two teams playing in the championship game are class programs. For me, finishing fourth is great. Finishing third is an outstanding job. Our defense has been outstanding this whole tournament, so I can’t complain.”
Glenbrook South goalie Lyndsey Mack played another solid game. Mack tallied three saves in the defeat, aided by a strong game from her backline.
Lincoln-Way East’s Gerfen seemed to catch Mack by surprise with her powerful shot with 22:27 left.
Glenbrook South senior forward and captain Meghan Noe said the Titans have to build off their opening three wins of the season. They play their next game against a talented Warren team on April 3.
“We’re still in the very beginning of our season and have a lot of new and young players,” Noe said. “I think we’re learning how to work together and try people out at new positions. Even for me, I usually play center mid, and I’m now playing forward. We’re trying to also build our team chemistry.
“I think we have a lot of potential. We have a lot of technically skilled players. We have to focus on our possession and being a really creative team on the attack and building out of the back.”
Glenbrook South senior midfielder Carolyn Cameranesi said competing in the big tournament will help her team in the long run.
“A lot of this game and tournament was focused on building our team chemistry and getting used to playing together,” she said. “I think this game was a great effort by our team. We played really hard out of the back, not letting them through easy and trying to connect and switch the field a lot. We have a lot of young and creative players up-top in 1-v-1, so getting the ball to them and letting them do their thing along the outsides to get crosses in is important.
“I think we learned we have a lot of depth on our team and people can play a variety of positions depending on the game and situation. Our team definitely is not one to quit. We come out strong and adapted. It was disappointing to lose. We can do better. We will look at the film and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Titans had two late chances, but Noe’s shot with 21 minutes remaining was saved by Lincoln-Way East goalie Mattea Arroyo, who compiled two saves. The Titans also had another quality opportunity, but Claire Baim’s shot sailed wide left with 16 minutes to play.
GK: Lyndsey Mack
D: Christina Papadatos
D: Katie Condon
D: Emily Ibarra
D: Briana Gould
MF: Payton Davidson
MF: Carolyn Cameranesi
MF: Claire Baim
MF: Lauren Koopersmith
F: Sofia Sommer
F: Meghan Noe
GK: Mattea Arroyo
D: Hannah Tokarski
D: Mia Hedrick
D: Thea Gerfen
D: Brooklyn Mortell
MF: Ellie Feigl
MF: Bre Herlihy
MF: Shae Eggert
MF: Kara Waishwell
F: Cami Butler
F: Madison Dziedzic
Chicagoland MVP of the Match: Thea Gerfen, jr., D, Lincoln-Way East
No goals scored
Lincoln-Way East: Gerfen (unassisted), 48th minute