By Jared Birchfield
CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Central topped Burlington Central in a Fox Valley Conference showdown match Tuesday, but the Tigers needed a golden goal in the second extra period to pull out the 2-1 victory.
Despite dominating the run-of-play throughout regulation, Crystal Lake Central found the back of the net only once. Burlington Central’s rock-solid defense, backed by the sure hands of goalkeeper Mackenzie Lorkowski repelled the Tigers’ repeated attacks.
The outcome all but extinguished second place Burlington Central’s hopes of taking the conference title. With the win, Crystal Lake Central, ranked first in the Chicagoland Soccer Class AA Super 7 poll, remains on top with a 7-0-0 league record. The Tigers need to win one of their two remaining conference games to clinch the crown. The Rockets, fifth in the poll, are now 5-1-1 in circuit play.
Ninety seconds into the second overtime period, Crystal Lake Central freshman midfielder Addison Schaffer took a feed from Brooklyn Carlson, dribbled down the left sideline and fired past Lorkowski from 20 yards for the winning strike.
Lorkowski stopped 12 Tigers shots and defended the net for two penalty kicks. Both attempts, one in each half, went over the cross bar. The freshman keeper gave credit to her backline for keeping the Rockets in the match.
“I think our backline was very connected the entire time. They just knew who to play and where to play,” Lorkowski said. “They also wanted to get to the ball first every time.”
The pressure was palpable before each spot-kick.
“I knew they were trying to psych me out. We looked each other in the eye,” Lorkowski said about both shooters. “I knew they were looking in the opposite way they were going to hit. Fortunately, they skyed the shots.”
Jillian Mueller attempted the first penalty kick with 9:52 left in the first half.
Burlington Central fans breathed a sigh of relief three minutes later, when officials waived off the junior midfielder’s goal due to an offsides call.
Carlson missed the second attempt with eight minutes left in regulation.
For her efforts, Lorkowski was named Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match.
“Their keeper was fantastic,” said Crystal Lake Central coach Sarah Fack. “She made some really, really great saves and kept that ball out of the net.”
Burlington Central manager Jessica Arneson agreed but also had plenty of praise for her backline, especially freshman and recent varsity call-up Ali Kowall.
“Mackenzie had some really phenomenal saves, and my whole backline did such a good job. We did really well defensively” Arneson said. “Ali has brought some really good strength and aggressiveness. She goes to balls, and she does a lot of good things in the back. I think she has really strengthened our backline.”
Kowall showed her versatility in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Rosary when she came off the backline early in the second half to replace an injured Lorkowski between the pipes.
Defender Rylee Butler approved of Kowall’s addition to the Rockets’ backline.
“I think having Ali in our backline has definitely helped. She has been getting to every single ball, Butler said.
Although it was a disappointing outcome, the junior saw positives.
“It was a tough loss, but I think we played really well today,” Butler said. “We were
communicating a lot, talking to each other. And we were clearing the ball out wide. Emersyn Fry kept moving up, got us out of the back and helped us move forward.”
Arneson added: “I think the defensive team was very good at clearing it. But every
time we did, we would make a small mistake, and the ball was back in our end.”
Burlington Central (9-5-1) scored first on Ava Elders’ header at the 18:16 mark of the first half.
“Sydney (Batts) crossed it to me. The defender stepped too far forward, and I put the ball behind her,” Elders said.
The senior had some takeaways for her team to work on.
“I think we needed to connect a little bit better. Also, we didn’t have too many girls on the bench, so our legs were getting a little tired,” she said. “It just kind of came down to mental toughness and focus. I think we need to work on that.”
Elder also took a glass half full approach.
“I think we look good for the rest of the season. We’re still second in the conference,” the midfielder said “We have postseason coming up. Hopefully we’ll see Central again in the sectionals.”
Arneson saw areas the offense needs to work on.
“I don’t think we connected as well as I was hoping we would. We needed to be able to connect and hold the ball for a little bit longer. We need to do that much more than we did today. I think we were a little frantic,” the Burlington Central coach said “Also, one of our goals for this game was to win the 50/50 balls. I think we did better, but I definitely think there is room for improvement.”
Crystal Lake Central (11-3-0) tied the match in the 54th minute.
Olivia Anderson corralled Maddie Grey’s midfield free kick and headed to Mueller, who maneuvered to put the ball in the net.
The Tigers coach knew if her team kept trying, it would find success.
“We obviously had a lot of opportunities,” Fack said. “We knew eventually we would score. It was definitely frustrating at times, but we have possessions, and we were able to get chances on goal.
“Credit to their defenders they did a nice job. We believed a goal would eventually
come, and we had that intensity to keep going. The game went on a little bit longer than we had hoped for, and I think we just did a nice job of not letting anything get us down mentally.”
Arneson saw the match as a boost for her team.
“This game was really important to build our confidence level. I think we did that today,” she said. “I told them before the game that no matter what the score was, I wanted to walk away knowing that we played our hardest. I wish we could have held on … but that’s just how the way things fall sometimes.
“I think that they understand now we can play big teams like Crystal Lake Central, which is a very solid team. The most important thing out of this match was
that we’re competitive, we’re good and we can go forward.”
GK: Mackenzie Lorkowski
D: Rylee Butler
D: Emersyn Fry
D: Brianna Domaleczny
D: Ali Kowal
M: Eva Samuelian
M: Kendalyn Grigg
M: Haley Lindquist
M: Mia Kerr
M: Sydney Batts
M: Ava Elders
Crystal Lake Central
GK: Addison Cleary
D: Kalissa Kaiser
D: Paition Hulata
D: Chelsea Iles
D: Shaylee Gough
M: Paiton Hulata
M: Olivia Anderson
M: Peyton McMahon
M: Jillian Mueller
F: Elizabeth Gray
F: Brooklyn Carlson
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Mackenzie Lorkowski, f, GK, Burlington Central
BC: Ava Elders (Sydney Batts) 22nd minute
CLC: Jillian Mueller (Elizabeth Gray) 54th minute
CLC: Addison Schaffer (Brooklyn Carlson) 92nd minute