BROOKFIELD -- Junior midfielder Hazel Hall scored probably the most dramatic goal of her Riverside-Brookfield girls soccer career Tuesday.
She never saw it.
Nor did most everybody playing or watching.
“I’m still a little confused, to be honest,” Hall said. “It’s really exciting. I’ll take it. But kind of confusing.”
Just about everyone was initially scratching their heads, but Hall’s 27-yard shot eventually was ruled a goal with 8:03 remaining. It was the game-winner in the Bulldogs’ emotional 2-1 victory over Wheaton Academy in the key Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup.
Hall’s shot with roughly 8:20 left was caught by Wheaton Academy goalie Noelle Niekamp with her arms raised after a slight jump.
Play continued momentarily but then stopped.
The assistant referee ruled that the secured ball crossed the goal line after Niekamp came down, perhaps due to a slight turn with the ball in hand to regain her footing.
Following a brief discussion, the center referee signaled a goal for the Bulldogs (12-4-2, 3-0-x). Hall’s first thought was that Niekamp stepped out of the box when punting the ball downfield.
“I honestly was not expecting (a goal). I did not know if it went over the line, so I turned around and was like ‘Dang it. We’ll get another one,’” said Hall, the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match.
“Someone on my team was like, ‘Hazel, wait,’ because the refs were talking. Are they going to call that as a goal? It was very bizarre. I was very happy, but I was really confused.”
“When (the goalie) turned her body, the ball crossed the end line. So, she didn’t go in; the ball did,” said Riverside-Brookfield assistant coach Carlos Hernandez.
“(Our team has) been growing and coming to see that we have the team. We have what it takes. They didn’t get nervous (down 1-0). We tied it, and it’s kind of like we’ve got the momentum. Like we told them, it’s going to come. Just be patient.”
For Wheaton Academy (7-6-2, 1-2-x), it was another tough one-goal loss in league play, It followed a 1-0 defeat April 25 to conference co-leader St. Francis (8-4-0, 3-0-x).
Wheaton Academy coach Maria Selvaggio said she wasn’t complaining but questioned how the game-deciding call was made and how the final decision transpired. The Warriors’ bench was on the opposite half of the field.
“I did not feel (the AR) was even near the end line to have a good angle or view, and he waited 10 seconds to alert the center official,” Selvaggio said.
“We are frustrated with the delay and lack of confidence in a call that significantly affects the outcome of a game. That’s sports sometimes. Doesn’t go your way. Whether the ball was over the line or not, I don’t feel confident (the AR) was at an angle to make the call, and that he took 10 seconds to process it is really frustrating. It’s just one moment in the game, but that kind of solidified a result.”
The two goals Tuesday and the one previously by St. Francis are the only three scored against the Warriors in their last seven games.
Senior co-captain and stopper Jill Paulson is among eight remaining roster players from the Warriors’ Class A state finals team from two seasons ago.
“It’s definitely hard, especially when a few of us were seemingly closer than the main ref. But at the end of the day, it’s their call and we’ve just got to live with it,” Paulson said.
“We’ve had a few games where it feels like our play hasn’t matched up with the result, but that’s the only thing that goes on the sheet. Got to live with it.”
There was no hesitation by the Bulldogs in celebrating the goal or eventual victory. It was the first over the perennially-talented Warriors for this current group and kept them undefeated in conference
Riverside-Brookfield, Wheaton Academy and St. Francis shared the 2022 Blue Division title with 5-1-x records. The Bulldogs lost at Wheaton Academy last season on penalty kicks.
“We really wanted to beat Wheaton because we haven’t beaten them since we’ve been here,” Riverside-Brookfield junior midfielder Kate Newberry said.
“(The 1-0 deficit) kind of lit a spark like, ‘We’re not going to let Wheaton beat us on our home field when there’s people here.’ It invigorated that. It’s go time. We can’t sit back anymore.”
At times, Wheaton Academy appeared in control. They had more possession throughout a scoreless first half and then took a 1-0 lead with 25:16 left. Junior Eva DeSouza scored off a great right-wing cross from classmate Rebecca Schulenberg. DeSouza even had time to quickly trap the ball in the center of the crease before converting.
“We had a lot of dangerous crosses and that was one of the things that eventually ended up in a goal,” Paulson said.
Riverside-Brookfield persevered and scored the equalizer with 13:14 to go.
Junior Madison Bisiules was situated near the right post and knocked home Niamh Larson’s high left-wing corner kick after it leaked through Niekamp’s extended hands.
“We’ve always talked as a team about our mental toughness and working toward really persevering when we’re down in a game,” Newberry said. “This is a great example or opportunity where we did that, which was really impressive.”
Riverside-Brookfield led 14-9 in total shots (8-5 on goal) and 6-4 in corner kicks. The Bulldogs collected eight of their shots and three corner kicks after DeSouza’s goal.
“One thing we’ve learned to not do is once we get scored on, bow our heads in defeat,” Hall said. “Especially today, we knew how back and forth it was. It was definitely disheartening, but we’ve been through enough situations where it’s been 1-0, 2-0, and we’ve come back. We weren’t going to slow down or be defeated.
“Since I’ve been here, it’s been a development.”
Recently, Hall had another game-winning goal that was much more conventional. She headed home a corner kick by Larson in the final two minutes for a 2-1 victory at Morton on April 24.
“That one was more shocking than this one,” Hall said. “I’d say this one was definitely more confusing. How did that really happen?”
Neither Niekamp nor usual Riverside-Brookfield senior goalie Piper Blair saw much action but both came through with big plays. Senior Monique Sandoval, usually a field player, started in goal Tuesday before Blair relieved in the 19th minute.
With the game still scoreless in the 50th minute, the Bulldogs' Larson had another dangerous left-wing corner kick, but a leaping Niekamp pushed the ball and deflected it off the crossbar with no rebound.
In the 27th minute, another great sideline cross gave the Warriors’ Mia Filippo a clear shot, but Blair stuck out her left foot and deflected the attempt wide right.
“I thought it was going in at first. That was great,” Newberry said.
Selvaggio added: “(Blair) made a save off the end line a couple of times that we thought for sure were goals. So, kudos to her, but we were doing the right thing. We were in dangerous spots.”
Blair has been a huge asset, especially after the graduation of all-sectional goalie Reagan Peschke. The defensive line also is holding its own considering returning senior all-conference standout Lena Lembcke is sidelined by a slightly torn tendon in her foot. She hopes to return for the playoffs.
Sophomore Lucy Drenth has moved from outside to the middle with senior Jessica Sharenow, a 2022 honorable mention all-sectional player.
“We had no one else lined up (to replace Peschke), but then Piper stepped up to the plate. We are set. We just never saw it coming,” Riverside-Brookfield junior midfielder Cassidy Erb said. “We all knew this year was going to be difficult, going to be hard, but with Piper stepping up and everyone coming together more, it’s not as big of a challenge as we thought it was going to be.”
Last season, the Bulldogs beat St. Francis 2-0 but the Wheaton Academy loss resulted in the three-way conference title tie. This year’s meeting with the Spartans is May 9 in Wheaton. The final Blue Division game for both teams very well could decide this season’s outright champion.
“And why not? Your last game of conference is a championship game, for a title -- that’s what you want,” Hernandez said.
GK: Noelle Niekamp
D: Haleigh Manske
D: Lexi Rojek
D: Jill Paulson
D: Britta Love
MF: Haley Serna
MF: Katelyn Schoepke
MF: Hannah Lindberg
MF: Eva DeSouza
F: Rebecca Schulenburg
F: Anna Africa
GK: Monique Sandoval
D: Abigail Ford
D: Jessica Sharenow
D: Lucy Drenth
D: Sophie Swicionis
MF: Ella Caputo
MF: Hazel Hall
MF: Madison Bisiules
MF: Nina Bretz
MF: Kate Newberry
F: Niamh Larson
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Hazel Hall, jr. MF, Riverside-Brookfield
Wheaton Academy: De Souza (Schulenberg) 54:34/55’
Riverside-Brookfield: Bisiules (Larson) 66:46/67’
Riverside-Brookfield: Hall (unassisted) 71:57/72’