SOUTH ELGIN –South Elgin watched with frustration as another team celebrated on their home field Wednesday night.
Before a large and spirited crowd, Bartlett and South Elgin battled in a memorable rivalry game that featured nonstop action, physical play and a few questionable calls, all on a warm and pleasant evening that included activities for local youth soccer teams0.
All the Upstate Eight Conference game between the two local rivals lacked was one key element -- a goal.
After the game officially ended in a tie, South Elgin coach Jerzy Skowron and Bartlett coach Vince Revak decided to have a penalty-kick shootout to determine which team would claim the Thunderhawk travelling trophy. Because the league does not play overtime, both teams were excited about the potential to claim victory after the hard-fought 80-minute draw.
Bartlett won the shootout 3-1 in four rounds to claim the trophy for the third-straight time. The Storm were left to watch the visitors’ merriment. And the Hawks certainly did enjoy themselves: several players took turns grabbing the heavy trophy, mugging for pictures and then everyone darted off to the northern goal to take a team picture.
“It’s not easy seeing them celebrate, that’s for sure,” South Elgin junior defender Cami Stokes said. “I’m really proud of how we played. This whole season we have been doing really well, getting a lot of shutouts and keeping the energy up.”
As the Bartlett boarded its bus, Skowron was exiting the stadium. However, several Storm players came charging back into the facility to find their affable coach.
Each player had a smile on their face and a hop in their step. They informed Skowron that Glenbard East knocked off Glenbard South 3-1 that night.
In a flash, Skowron, who wore a white adidas jacket, a hat and carried two rolls of paper towels tucked under his left arm, was all smiles just like his players. The Glenbard South (8-7-1, 6-2-1) loss secured the Upstate Eight Conference title for the Storm (9-6-2, 7-0-2).
South Elgin went from deflated to elated in a matter of less than 15 minutes. Not only did the Storm have the delight of winning the conference title, but the additional spectacle of Skowron getting a leg tattoo to commemorate the achievement.
“A promise is a promise,” Skowron said. “I have my legs reserved for soccer tattoos, so I give the boys the same challenge. The girls came out, and they apparently like tattoos more than the boys do. I told them they will get to choose the design, with my approval obviously. We will go from there.”
Even Skowron, a veteran in the coaching business, admitted Thursday’s wide range of emotions was a strange occurrence. A few minutes before, South Elgin senior goalie Karissa Cruz came off the field crying after the PK shootout.
“It all seemed to happen within three minutes,” Skowron said, simultaneously smiling and shocked at the rapid reversal of fortunes.
“This just shows you how much the girls care and love this stuff. It makes our job as coaches so rewarding. I’m blessed and privileged to be here.”
Revak said his team played strong throughout the emotional game, so he was happy his program could keep the trophy in Bartlett for another year.
“Our conference only goes to ties at the end of regulation, so Jerzy and I we kind of made this rivalry game and named it something fun to have a rivalry trophy going back and forth for the boys and girls,” Revak said. “The refs were nice enough to stick around for a PK shootout, just to see who gets the trophy.
“It was a little less sweet to go to a PK shootout, because we’ve been struggling to score goals. Give a lot of credit to South Elgin. They had much better chances than we did, but we were able to hold on for the tie. It’s a consolation prize, but a prize.”
Bartlett goalie Megan Kron was up to the task in the net and earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor. She finished with five saves, including two in the final 10 minutes. The Storm nearly scored a goal with four minutes left. A free kick hit the crossbar and landed at the goal line where several players stood but didn’t cross it.
A few seconds later, a Bartlett defender stopped a potential goal by clearing the ball away while Kron was unable to return to her line due to an injury. She left the game and did not return for the final 3:50 before coming back for the shootout.
“At first, it hurt. It started to go away, but I knew with the rules I had to go out,” Kron said. “I just wanted to go back into the game and was lucky to later.”
Bartlett junior forward Valeria Serna played the last three-plus minutes in place of Kron and sealed the shutout with two saves.
Kron’s strong in-match play factored into South Elgin’s opening two misses: the first via a high attempt and another wide right. After one got through, Kron ended the session with a save on the fourth and final attempt.
Bartlett had one shot-on-goal in the match but walked away with the coveted trophy. The irony was not lost on the coaches. South Elgin had ample opportunies during the match but couldn't connect in regulation or PKs.
“The good news is we kept them off the board and battled until the end,” Revak said. “Valeria Serna jumped in at goalie for the final few minutes of the game.
“We had a freak play where everyone was going for the ball, and Megan gets hit and has to come out. Val stepped in and was awesome and not scared and was motivated. It was awesome to see a field player step in and get a couple of saves and add to the stat sheet. We were trying to get Megan back in for the last three minutes, but it just never happened.
“Megan is so good at PKs. She had two saves against St. Charles East. She had another PK save not too far after that. She’s been excellent. In a season where we are finding who we are again, she’s been an awesome bright spot in the back of our defense and gave us a chance. Our backline did a good job supporting each other, has become a really strong unit and is getting better every game.”
Kron said she happy to help her team to win the trophy and was one of the first players to hoist the trophy over her head for postgame pictures.
“I tried to read the players and where they were going,” she said of her shootout strategy. “If they look to a corner, they will probably go to that corner. And you look at their body position.”
Bartlett junior defender Macy Medendorp said the backline combined with the two goalies to form a strong partnership to keep the hard-charging Storm from scoring.
“They were playing a lot of long balls and had some fast girls. We were trying our best to slow them down,” she said. “We definitely came together as a team, pulling back especially when our keeper got hurt. We came together as a team and played smart.
“We wanted the shutout. We were glad we were able to do it. This (the Thunderhawk shootout) was a nice win because of the rivalry.”
Before hearing the news about winning the conference, the Storm were melancholy in the shadow of Bartlett’s joy.
The defensive third led the way to South Elgin’s conference title, allowing just 15 goals in 17 matches. The group was especially stingy at home.
The only three times the Storm allowed more than one goal in a game have come in nonconference matches on the road: a 6-0 defeat at ranked Naperville North on March 17; a 2-0 defeat at Glenbard West on April 6; and a 2-0 setback at ranked York on April 18.
South Elgin senior defender Maille Dunne said the backline has sparked the team all season long.
“This is something our whole team is proud of, and we praise Karissa and our backline for all the shutouts,” Dunne said. “We don’t let teams score. In this game, that shows that. We have really good communication and are also really good friends and work well together. We would’ve wished for a better result, but I’m really thankful to have a great backline with me.”
Senior defender Lesly Ulloa said picking up another shutout was another silver lining Wednesday. The backline played physical and aggressive to keep Bartlett handcuffed all game.
“I feel overall throughout the season our backline has been one of the strongest points for us. Communication really helps and keeps us accountable,” Ulloa said. “We work well together as a team, and we give good feedback and don’t take it personally. Coach always said we have to have the pitbull mentality, not be a poodle. That helps just constantly communicate and go for the 50/50 balls.”
South Elgin sophomore defender Ashley Gonzalez said the upperclassmen helped her adjust to playing heavy minutes in the backline.
“We all have created a lot of memories and great experiences on the field, and I’ve learned so much,” Gonzalez said.
Cruz, who has nine shutouts on the season, wasn’t required to make a save. That didn’t temper her joy at another clean-sheet.
“It was a bit unfortunate how it ended. But overall we really picked it up in the second half, and it really showed,” she said. “We really wanted the win badly but didn’t score. Our backline really picked it up. We can go pretty far in the playoffs. We’ve been able to keep up with these hard teams, like York and Prospect. We always go down with a fight.”
Skowron left the pitch stadium all smiles.
“It’s always a tough matchup with Bartlett,” he said. “... These games are always competitive and fun. This year we had youth soccer night. The kids were ballboys with mini games on the field. It was special.
“I don’t have a magic button to make it happen, but we’re all of a sudden atop the conference without a loss. I’m proud of these girls. You have to give credit to the girls in front of Karissa. They have played great. I love coaching these girls. They give it their all. It just didn’t fall our way for the “W” tonight. We got some help in conference, though.”
GK: Megan Kron
D: Macy Medendorp
D: Ariss Kroeger
D: Breanna Baumann
D: Brooke Baumann
MF: Mia Lamz
MF: Alisha Mirpuri
MF: Jasmin Galvan
MF: Lizzie Dzielski
F: Viviana Alba
F: Gianna Imperatrice
GK: Karissa Cruz
D: Cami Stokes
D: Lesly Ulloa
D: Janelle Defensor
D: Ashley Gonzalez
MF: Mia Traver
MF: Kiara Andrewin
MF: Ellie Vidic
MF: Adeline Kinsella
F: Ella Dihel
F: Nevaeh Gyurko
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Megan Kron, so., GK, Bartlett
Penalty kick shootout
Jasmin Galvan – good
Brooke Baumann – good
Averi Barca – miss (high)
Mia Traver – miss (high)
Ella Dihel – miss (wide right)
Cami Stokes – good
Callie Miller –saved