LA GRANGE — The only thing better than smashing the winless streak was the cause.
The last time Wheaton Warrenville South was on the winning side of the scoreboard was exactly a month ago, March 23, following an upset win over then seventh-ranked Oswego East.
What followed was a 0-7-1 stretch against top-notch competition, including defending state champion Metea Valley and state third place finisher Lincoln-Way Central.
Four of the losses were one-goal games.
The most infuriating was a shootout loss Friday in the Bettendorf (Ia.) Invitational, after the Tigers surrendered two goals in the final minute and a half of regulation.
None of that really mattered Sunday.
“Today was really about playing for something more than ourselves and more than soccer,” forward Lauren Barnett said.
Winning was the cherry on top.
“We definitely felt like we deserved to win, especially coming back from Iowa,” forward Kate Hartnett said.
“Even though we didn’t come out with the wins, we definitely dominated the teams we played there.”
Sunday honored the past and present.
Hartnett and freshman Lucy Jethani scored minutes apart in the Tigers’ 2-0 victory over Mother McAuley in the Cancer for Charity event of the Body Armor tournament Sunday at the Lyons Sports Complex.
Wheaton Warrenville South (3-7-2) savored the moment.
“I definitely think we put our best foot forward, and it was nice to come out, and back, with a win,” Hartnett said.
In soccer, no two goals are exactly alike. Some are happenstance or random; some are the culmination of pressure and creativity.
On the grass surface, with the ball playing slow, solid and steady Hartnett stepped up.
In the 19th minute, working on the left wing, she fought through two Mighty Macs’ defenders and won the ball.
After securing the ball after a Mother McAuley goal kick, Hartnett moved quickly to her left. She created some space and drilled a shot from about 14 yards for the opening goal.
“I was just really excited about the opportunity and the moment,” Hartnett said.
“I saw the ball coming, and … I just told myself I have to make this shot.”
Kate Hartnett earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match for her game-winning action.
The goal was not hers alone. It was part of the collective.
“I never could have done that without all the other girls on the field, especially the one who took the earlier shot that led to the goal kick,” she said.
“I thought the whole sequence was really important.”
Losing weighs a team down, especially mentally.
The Tigers fought through, maintaining their deeply optimistic spirit that the results would eventually discover their side.
“I definitely don’t think our record reflects or represents who we are as a team,” Barnett said.
“People might look at our record, and not expect us to come out as strong as we are. We are a good team, and the record we have now does not necessarily define us, or express what we are going to be at the end of the season.”
Sophomore Marilyn Dixon was steady and rock solid as the Tigers’ keeper.
She posted seven saves for the shutout. The most impressive was a rocket volley by Mother McAuley freshman Calli Edwards in the 32nd minute from about nine yards.
The Mighty Macs (6-6-1) played well.
Edwards is a find, quick, explosive with the ball and dangerous in space.
“I think we have played teams very similar to them, and we kind of know what to do,” Edwards said.
“Sometimes you can’t get through, because they’re too big and physical. Today I thought our team really tried our best. We pushed ourselves, and we are going to continue to play hard against good teams like this.”
Wheaton Warrenville South has a lot of intriguing pieces, with Barnett and Hartnett at the top of the attack.
In the middle, the team is loaded with size, speed and capable playmakers like Ava Walsh, Lily Petrie and Ashlyn Adams.
Off a counter in the 22nd minute, Adams blasted a left-footed through-ball that Jethani perfectly ran on to for the breakaway.
She forced keeper Ella Martin to commit and smashed home her first career goal from about yards out.
The voluble and nervous Jethani struggled to find the right words, her feelings caught up with her, living a glorious moment.
“It was a great opportunity, and Ash played me a great ball, and it was a must make,” she said.
“I took a touch on the ball, the keeper was coming out, and I had to make a play for the back corner.”
Adams said the team played with pride and urgency, and not panic.
That was the difference.
“I feel like every opportunity you get you have to finish and play a good ball,” Adams said.
“She was wide open and made a great run, and just had to finish it for her first varsity goal. Kate made her goal on just pure hustle.”
The Friday loss still hung on the minds of the team, and coach Guy Callipari addressed the necessity of playing an entire game.
Even with the two-goal advantage, the Tigers maintained their sharp engagement and continued to create offensive chances.
Martin was solid for the Macs with six saves.
Wheaton Warrenville South never pressed, remaining in control, lucid and ready for any counter or offensive action staged by McAuley.
The Tigers have learned hard lessons, and adapted to the learning curve.
“You never want to lose,” Adams said. “I feel like these teams we have been losing against are really good teams who are amazing.
“We are playing harder, but now we just need to finish it.”
Dixon stopped Edwards twice in the final five minutes to secure the shutout.
The wrong kind of streak was finally over.
“Today was special, sentimental and emotional, especially for the seniors. This was our third time playing in the tournament,” Barnett said.
“It’s always fun playing with the team and traveling and also playing against a team we’d never play in the regular-season. It’s sad we are not coming back here, but I am very proud that we ended it with a win.”
GK: Ella Martin
D: Annemarie Clark
D: Daniella Hall
D: Emily Grzyb
D: Tricia Hynes
MF: Lauren Gallagher
MF: Xotchil Ramirez
MF: Ciara Hosty
MF: Alina Mannion
F: Calli Edwards
F: Ava Grace Sales
Wheaton Warrenville South
GK: Marilyn Dixon
D: Kate Gronland
D: Brooke Ittersagen
D: Berkley Dylla
D: Taylor Cooper
MF: Ava Walsh
MF: Lily Petrie
MF: Ashlyn Adams
MF: Mia Harbert
F: Kate Hartnett
F: Lauren Barnett
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Kate Hartnett, sr., F, Wheaton Warrenville South
WWS—Kate Hartnett (unassisted), 19th minute
WWS—Lucy Jethani (Ashlyn Adams), 22nd minute