WHEATON – Wheaton Warrenville South’s Lauren Barnett has known fellow senior forward Mollie Nolan for a long time. She had a premonition about her friend before the Tigers faced visiting Lake Park on Wednesday night.
Nolan made a visionary out of Barnett by scoring her first varsity goal on a rebound with 27:35 left in the first half.
It turned out to be the game-winner as the Tigers claimed their first DuKane Conference victory of the season. Barnett and sophomore Ashlyn Adams both scored twice in the 5-0 decision at Red Grange Field.
“I was so excited,” Barnett said of seeing Nolan dent the back of the net. “Going into the game, we were like, ‘She is going to score.’
“She’s my best friend since kindergarten. So to end Senior Night on that note together was just so special, and I’m so proud of her.”
Barnett actually triggered the play that led to Nolan’s goal, dribbling into the middle of the box and ripping a left-footed shot on frame.
Lake Park goalkeeper Ava Garcia made a diving save, but the Lancers (5-11-0, 1-5-0) failed to clear the rebound. Nolan met the ball at the top of the right side of the box and unleashed a one-timer inside the near post.
“I was just open, and I got a great right foot on it,” Nolan said. “It was just fun to celebrate with my teammates on Senior Night.”
The fun was just getting started for the Tigers (6-7-3, 1-2-2), who dominated the possession, especially in the first half, and allowed only two shots.
“We definitely needed it since the DuKane is so competitive, and these teams are so amazing,” Barnett said. “So obviously for us to walk away with the three points is great, and for Senior Night, it was just so fun being with my teammates and just such a good time.”
Barnett played a starring role in the good time. She made it 2-0 with 17:30 left in the first half when she made a run up the middle before blasting a 20-yard shot under the arm of a diving Garcia and inside the left post.
It was the first of two strikes on the night for Barnett, who capped the scoring with 1:49 left. It was her first brace of the season but not the first time she has had a big performance against the Lancers – she netted four goals against them last year.
The four-year varsity player blew out her knee the last time the Tigers and Lancers met at Red Grange Field two years ago. She called this game “a little bit of a full-circle moment.”
Tigers coach Guy Callipari was glad this match created happier memories for Barnett, who has worn a face mask while playing to protect her nose after deviated septum surgery last winter.
“That’s a lot of history there for her,” Callipari said. “She’s dealing with the mask. She’s had to acclimate to looking down and looking forward. There might be a little bit of distortion.
“She’s really starting to find her niche and how she needs to play that role. Sometimes we play her as a 10, and not a 9, when we need to stretch teams a little bit or we’re chasing the game.
“This situation here, we can play her to her feet and move her through that layer knowing that she can keep the ball. She’s learning how to play off others around her. They’re making good runs for her.”
The Tigers were in total control against the overwhelmed Lancers, who played without five injured starters and were missing a few other players due to illness or National Honor Society inductions.
“Wheaton Warrenville South really works the ball well,” first-year Lake Park head coach Caroline Kilrea said. “They move from left to right, through the center, up and down.
“They’re everywhere. We spent probably the first 20 minutes of the half just chasing, and we didn’t have our footing. Once we got our footing and we started figuring out their game plan, we did get better.
“We had some JV girls up with us. ... We came in today expecting a tougher game.
“We played with a lot of heart and a lot of spirit out there from start to finish, so I am very proud of them.”
Lake Park kept the deficit at 2-0 for over 35 minutes. Garcia, who has been stellar all season, made three saves in the first half. JV callup Vanessa Boafo stopped five shots in the second half.
The visitors never threatened offensively. The closest Lake Park came to scoring was when Kira Holliday got off a 30-yard shot at the 24:20 mark of the first half, which Tigers goalie Marilyn Dixon saved on a bounce.
“I think what was important for us was to establish some continuity and rhythm in our play,” Calipari said. “They were going to give us more time than we’re typically going to get, but we were going to use that time wisely.
“We’re going to try to orchestrate a three-man, four-man combination, get into some of the things you don’t have time to do, because your ability doesn’t allow you to do that. Tonight was a little bit more relaxed on the ball.
“But give credit to Lake Park, being undermanned. … They just worked so hard tonight. Their two goalies are good athletes and very brave and very courageous.
“It was a fun night. When you have Senior Night, you: one, hope to get a win; two, if you can, get a clean-sheet; and 3), walk away healthy.”
The Tigers accomplished all three.
“I thought we did a good job communicating and passing through the middle,” Nolan said. “In the other games we had a hard time talking to each other.
“Tonight, we were able to connect passes through and finish, which is a good feeling.”
Neither Nolan or Barnett plan to play college soccer, which makes the dwindling number of games all the more precious to them. The Tigers still have three home games left, but Barnett said this match was special.
“A lot of the community comes out to watch and support us,” Barnett said. “Wheaton is a great community. With a lot of fans and all of our friends, it’s super fun to play good in front of them.”
Adams got in on the celebration, scoring on two-consecutive shots to put the game out of reach. She increased the lead to 3-0 with 21:14 to go in the second half, by accepting a short corner and blasting a 25-yard shot into the upper left corner of the net. It became 4-0 eight minutes later when she rolled an open shot inside the far post after a lead pass from junior Camryn Fleming.
“We were really hoping we could leave here with 2-0, but 5-0 is what it is,” Kilrea said. “I’m still happy with what I saw out there, the connection the girls had and the chemistry they had on the field.”
GK: Ava Garcia
D: Peyton Sarubbi
D: Juliana Selvaggio
D: Ava Ramirez
M: Alexa Liapis
M: Brynn Ellenbecker
M: Cora Riter
M: Kira Holliday
M: Lauren Malone
F: Milana Positano
F: Alyza Ally
Wheaton Warrenville South
GK: Marilyn Dixon
D: Kate Gronlund
D: Ella Byrnes
D: Ella McClatchy
M: Lily Petri
M: Alyse Whaley
M: Carolyn Harvey
F: Ashlyn Adams
F: Lauren Barnett
F: Mollie Nolan
F: Kate Hartnett
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Lauren Barnett, sr., F, Wheaton Warrenville South
WWS: Mollie Nolan 27:58 remaining
WWS: Lauren Barnett 17:30 remaining
WWS: Ashlyn Adams (Ella McClatchy) 21:14 remaining
WWS: Adams (Camryn Fleming) 13:31 remaining
WWS: Barnett 1:49 remaining