By Dave Owen
BERWYN - Seeking back-to-back regional titles for the first time in program history, host Morton came out sizzling in its Class 3A regional final vs. York on Friday.
The Mustangs’ high-speed attack turned up the pressure on the York defense to earn two penalty kicks in the first 29 minutes of the match.
The first PK opportunity resulted in a Carisma Rosales goal that gave Morton a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.
But the eighth-seeded Mustangs’ lead spurred big offensive and defensive answers from the no. 2 seed.
York (15-3-1) scored twice over a 10-minute span later in the first half to grab a 2-1 lead. And in between those finishes by Finley Ewald (26th minute) and Michaela Quinn (36th minute), Dukes goalkeeper Daly Wangler put her stamp on the momentum shift.
Morton (17-7-1) drew another foul in the box in the 29th-minute to impressively earn a second penalty kick in less than 10 minutes of play. But this time, Wangler made the stop to deny the Mustangs their chance to pull even.
“We were really trying to put that first PK (the Morton goal) behind us,” York striker Ewald said. “We practice PKs every day in practice, and I have the utmost faith in Daly. I told her ‘I believe in you,’ everyone told her that, and we were giving her high fives.
“She came up big and strong when we really needed her, and she’s been amazing all season. She’s been really the rock of our team.”
It was Ewald who was York’s rock in the second half, finishing with a hat-trick. She struck for goals with 12:10 and then 8:55 remaining. Those turned a close battle over the first 65-plus minutes into a 4-1 Dukes win.
Morton had allowed just three goals in its last five games, and their previous season high by an opponent in a single game was three vs. Andrew on March 16 in their second game of the season.
But a York team that has outscored a quality 2023 schedule by a composite 65-15 margin proved to be too tall a task.
“If we could have maybe put that second PK in, maybe we’re holding on a little longer, packing it in, parking the bus whatever you want to call it,” Bageanis said. “But it was a matter of time – they were going to get their chances. They’re an excellent team, and we were just trying to hang with them.”
Morton’s last hopes to get back in the game all but ended with 11:02 to play.
A sequence of physical play resulted in three players being given red cards. Two of those disqualifications went to the Mustangs, leaving them at a 10-v-9 disadvantage the rest of the way.
“Unfortunately, we had the stuff happen in the second half that no one is happy about,” Bageanis said. “I’m upset that it came to people losing their cools. They, our players, are passionate, and emotions run high. But still...
“But our girls always battle. And we just came out on the short end tonight.”
Through the early PKs and then the late tumult, York coach Stevan Dobric praised his team’s ability to overcome.
“There was adversity in the game today,” Dobric said, “and to me what our players proved all season is that it doesn’t matter how much they face and how much they get pressed, they find a way to win.”
The early adversity of a 1-0 deficit was answered by Ewald’s first goal.
“The first PK was a really big wake-up call,” she said. “We really kicked it into gear, and I could tell our winning mentality really came into play.
“They got another PK and Daly saved it, and then our second goal we had a really good corner kick play that worked, and Michaela Quinn scored off that.
“The wide balls were really working for us,” Ewald added. “We could tell our forwards had a lot of pace today, and we used really good composure on the ball. And I think overall we just played really well as a team.”
York continued its momentum early in the second half, when a juggling save from Morton’s Cindy Jimenez denied a Maggie Quinn shot 55 seconds in.
The hosts pushed hard for an equalizer. With 27:15 to go, Aaliyah Leanos’ left-side rush and pass toward Citali Chavez in the box was denied on a nice sliding block by York’s Tatum Mailander.
Morton’s best chances to tie soon followed.
With 21 minutes left, Leanos had a drive in the box saved by Wangler and cleared by Ewald. Then at 19:50 to play, Rosales burst in up the middle through two defenders but had her 15-yard drive denied on a high catch by Wangler.
“I thought it was a great team effort,” Dobric said. “Daly had a big save on the PK, and had a huge save on a shot about 12 yards out by number 24 (Leanos).
“All the defenders did a really good job communicating and did a good job of defending early (in Morton attacks), just causing problems and stifling any kind of creation that they were going to have.”
Morton had a set piece chance with 15:10 to go and the score still 2-1, but Rosales’ free kick left of the box 16 yards out curled over the upper right corner of the net.
York answered with the decisive offensive surge. First, a corner kick short pass with 12:40 left set up a Michaela Quinn shot that Jimenez deftly denied on a low save.
Just 30 seconds later, a Mo Buhrfiend cross found Ewald 12 yards out in the box for her second goal of the game and a 3-1 York lead.
“I think toward the late second half it was more a mental game,” Morton senior defender Brianna Avalos said, “and I think we got tired and kind of let our emotions get the best of us. And it showed in the consequences obviously.”
Just over a minute after York went up 3-1, the red card flurry gave the Dukes a player advantage. Ewald then capped her hat-trick and finished the scoring with 8:55 to go when she headed in Allison Sheehan’s right-side end-line cross.
“Our wide players have really stepped it up this year,” said Ewald, who now has 20 goals on the season. “And me being in the center I’ve worked on my composure and finishing. Normally I was an outside back before, but this year I’ve really been able to connect on the wonderful crosses that my wingers have been playing into me. “
Morton had its own defensive moments in the second half. Stephanie Salmaron nicely broke up a York attack with 22:40 left. With less than 11 minutes remaining, Chavez headed a York free kick away from danger, and Jimenez just beat Ewald to the ball to make a nice near-post catch of a Dukes corner kick with 3:05 to go.
York moves on to face third-seeded Hinsdale Central in the Reavis Sectional semifinals on Tuesday. The Dukes beat their conference rivals 4-1 April 25.
York hopes to extend its tournament run into the pantheon of the York boys teams’ 2021 Class 3A state title and 2022 state Final Four teams.
“The boys success has really fed into our program,” Ewald said. “We always went to all the boys games: it was really exciting. And now the boys have been coming to see us and have been announcing our games. It’s been exciting to build the chemistry of the two teams, and it really leads us to want to win that state title as well.”
Between its deep West Suburban Conference Silver Division slate and quality nonconference foes, York has the moxie for the tests to come.
“The girls really found a way to build up and challenge themselves at different times in different ways,” Dobric said. “A lot of teams we scheduled, we were trying to put them in different situations against teams who like to play different styles. There’s a mix of teams in the area that I know play different styles, so we’re ready for anything we see in the playoffs.”
Added Ewald: “Our team chemistry is good. We spend almost every moment together, whether at practice or two or three hours at pasta parties and team picnics and stuff. We’ve really built up every single year starting with 2021, we just keep getting better and better, and we just know each other so well.”
GK: Daly Wangler
D: Mia Barton
D: Ava Hansman
D: Abby DeMichele
D: Tess Macgregor
M: Maureen Buhrfiend
M: Allison Sheehan
M: Tatum Mailander
M: Rylee Adams
F: Finley Ewald
F: Michaela Quinn
GK: Cindy Jimenez
D: Pamela Hernandez
D: Brianna Avalos
D: Crystal Ozuna
D: Angela Nevarez
M: Ariana Valdovinos
M: Carisma Rosales
M: Adamary Huitron
M: Stephanie Salmaron
F: Citali Chavez
F: Aaliyah Leanos
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Finley Ewald, jr. F, York
Morton- Carisma Rosales (PK), 19’
York- Finley Ewald (Ava Hansmann), 26’
York- Michaela Quinn (Allison Sheehan), 36’
York- Ewald (Mo Buhrfiend), 67’
York- Ewald (Sheehan), 72’