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DGS keeps title streak alive, Swanson's late goal delivers win at Morton

By Bobby Narang, 05/11/23, 2:45PM CDT


Mustangs win 1-0 on soph's 75th-minute goal

CICERO --- As Downers Grove South broke out in celebration at various parts of the pitch Tuesday night, Morton junior forward Aaliyah Leanas slumped to the ground.

Leonas had spent all game long searching for an elusive goal, as did her highly decorated teammate Carisma Rosales.

Leanos and Rosales, a Marquette recruit, were the last two players to walk off the pitch. Both slowly walked to meet up with their teammates to shake hands with the Downers Grove South players and coaches.

In a Battle of Mustangs for the West Suburban Conference Gold Division title, Downers Grove South picked up a late goal by sophomore Skylar Swanson to pull out a 1-0 victory to claim its third-straight league title.

Downers Grove South defender Micah Olson sealed the victory, knocking away a late threat by Morton (16-6-1, 5-1-0) by blasting the ball near midfield to run out the clock and end a memorable match. With the win, Downers Grove South (14-3-1, 6-0-0) extended its conference streak to 25 games; the last loss came on the same field on May 6, 2019.

Swanson scored the winning goal with 5:07 left in regulation. She found an open spot in the box among a crowd of defenders and knocked in a shot from seven yards for the game-winner.

“I was really excited to score,” Swanson said. “I knew it was going to come eventually. We had to keep trying. I honestly don’t even know what happened on my goal. It came so quickly. I was right there and shot it. 

“This win feels really good. The team has worked really hard. We didn’t want to go into overtime. I had so many opportunities to score, and just tried to be there for the team. I’m so proud of everybody. We all worked together to win this.”

The game-winning goal was the second straight for Swanson, who scored with 7 minutes, 11 seconds left against cross-town rival North to win the Downers Grove Derby on May 6. Both earned her MVP of the Match honors.

Downers Grove South senior forward Emily Petring her teammate is a clutch player.

“We can always count on Skylar,” Petring said. “She buried that shot to give us the win. She hustles and works hard and is a great player. I can always count on her as a great teammate. She has great energy whether it’s a practice or game or even in the hallways.

“This was definitely a big game for us. We knew coming in that it was huge. We are just working toward playoffs for us. That’s what we are looking forward to now.”

Downers Grove South coach Chris Hernandez said his team’s fight was stellar throughout the tense 80-minute match. Keeper Hannah Fedinec sealed the win with four of her six saves in the second half.

Entering the match, Morton junior forward Rosales recruit, had a team-high 23 goals along with 12 assists. Leanos had 17 goals and nine assists. Neither could find a goal against Fedinec.

“We worked hard as a team but couldn’t finish our chances,” Rosales said. “That happens. It’s part of the game. It was a good game overall. Downers Grove South’s whole backline was really good. We played good overall as a team. But we have to come back stronger for the playoffs and not give up after this loss. We have to be ready for Willowbrook.”

“It was a tough loss,” Leanos said. “We had them and contained them for the vast majority of the game. I think we did a good job keeping the ball. The ideas were there, but we couldn’t execute. We worked really hard to get the ball up-top but just couldn’t finish. We have playoffs coming up. Right now we’re down, but next week we will be ready for the playoffs.”

Hernandez praised the Downers Grove South backline for coming up big in the shutout.

“Morton had two very talented players up-top in Carisma Rosales and Aaliyah Leanos,” Hernandez said. “We identified them before the game. We had to stick together, not just using our own individual talents but to collectively defend. 

“Aubrey Molinari, Micah Olson, Teyani Sharkey and Gabby Okuku and our goalie Hannah Fedinec were rocks for us. They have 12 shutouts on the year. I’m proud of them. There’s no bigger game for us than for the conference title.

“You can see there’s a lot of growth and maturity in this group. For us to start two sophomores in the middle of the field and Skylar to handle herself up-top, the future is bright for us.”

Cindy Jimenez, Morton's senior backup goalie, had her night in the spotlight, and she shined. Playing for regular starter Yaritza Padilla, who is currently in concussion protocol, Jimenez finished with five saves. She battled all game long trying to keep Downers Grove South’s high-scoring duo of Petring and Swanson off the board.

Jimenez was immediately thrust into action, when Petring sent a shot toward the goal just 75 seconds into the match. Jimenez snagged the easy save, setting the tone for a strong performance.

She had a memorable save off a corner kick in the 31st minute. Jimenez tallied a huge save at the 7:41 mark of the second half on a hard shot off the foot of Swanson from just six yards away in the center of the box.

The game-winner in the 75th minute was the only one that got by.

“Cindy Jimenez was spectacular,” Morton coach Jim Bageanis said. “She made a great save on a corner kick in the first half and saved a goal on a reaction save late in the second half. She had a solid night. Our backline played great.”

From the outset, Downers Grove South’s forward tandem of Petring, a three-sport star who was named the school’s 2022-23 Female Athlete of the Year, and Swanson were in hunting mode for goals.

But Morton’s backline did an excellent job of marking and didn’t allow good looks in the first half.

Petring shot wide with 10 minutes left in the half, and Krystal Flores’ header was also wide at the eight-minute mark. 

Morton senior defender Brianna Avalos played a big role in holding the visitors to one goal. She stuck with Petring, who has 28 goals on the season, for the majority of the game. Morton played physical with Petring, bumping and pushing in an attempt to throw her off her game.

“This is really hard as a senior,” Avalos said. “Mistakes happen. We have to move on because playoffs are starting. I just saw a miscommunication on their goal. We will work on that. Overall, we played very well. It’s about finishing and keeping our heads up until the end. It makes me feel really good we only (gave) up one goal.”

Petring, a Coastal Carolina recruit, said she wasn’t bothered by the physical nature of the game.

“I didn’t let it get into my head, because in previous year it got into my head,” Petring said. “I’ve matured and grown as a player. I just tried to play my game and with my team.”

Bageanis credited his backline for not backing down from a tough challenge.

“Our backline played great,” Bageanis said. “Brianna did a fantastic job marking Petring all over the field. I was really impressed with our marking.”

“We have to play better but we know we can do well in the playoffs,” Rosales said. “We’re looking forward to the playoffs. Her and Swanson are two talents up-top. Both of them work really well together and are going to give teams problems in the playoffs.

“I like the way we defended, though. We did a great job getting to the ball first and closing down their shooters, so they couldn’t pull the trigger. I like how we moved the ball and kept ourselves balanced.”

Fedinec said she expected a big challenge against Morton. Leanos and Rosales came out of the gates in a flurry, with a Leanos shot saved by Fedinec in the 12th minute. Rosales is a unique talent who possesses an outstanding skill set. Her speed combined with lateral quickness, foot skills and ability to get off a shot in tight spaces are rare qualities. She had back-to-back hard-hit shots early in the game but Downers Grove South’s backline did a nice job containing her for the final 55 minutes.

Fedinec made sure she did her part vocally as well as physically.

“I just tried to communicate with my defense and make sure we are all on the same page,” Fedinec said. “We had to make sure we knew where Rosales and Leanos were at all times. I had to let my defense know to be in the right spot. They played great. I just tried to be ready for this game mentally. I knew it was a big game. I tried not to get nervous and play to my instincts.

“We all played really well in this game. We came out really flat in the first 10 minutes, but after that we really turned it on. We were able to connect passes through the midfield. That’s when we started to get things really going.”

Sharkey said the backline played one of its best games of the season.

“This was a great win for us,” she said. “I think we connected the ball really well. Once we got into our rhythm, we took over. We could definitely go far in the playoffs. We have some younger players on the team and connected well. We have a good bond. I’m really proud of everyone and how they played in this game.”

Morton sophomore midfielder Stephanie Salmeron said the loss can motivate the Mustangs for the playoffs.

“We just made a mistake on their goal, and we have to move on,” Salmeron said. “We have bonded so much. That’s very important because we play as a team and are connected. They have very technical forwards and are very good on the ball.”

Starting lineups
Downers Grove South
GK: Hannah Fedinec
D: Micah Olson
D: Aubrey Molinari
D: Teyani Sharkey
D: Gabby Okuku
MF: Ashley Molinari
MF: Nuria Calderson
MF: Marifer Duran
MF: Grace Rappel
F: Emily Petring
F: Skylar Swanson 
GK: Cindy Jimenez
D: Pamela Hernandez
D: Crystal Ozuna
D: Brianna Avalos
D: Angela Nevarez
MF: Carisma Rosales
MF: Ariana Valdovinos
MF: Stephanie Salmeron
MF: Vianey Gutierrez
F: Aaliyah Leanos
F: Citlali Chavez
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Skylar Swanson, Downers Grove South, sophomore, forward
Scoring summary
First half
No goals scored
Second half
Downers Grove South: Swanson (Aubrey Molinari), 75’