NAPERVILLE – O’Fallon’s Ella Peterson and Addison Baldus both know what it feels like to win a state championship.
Peterson, a junior midfielder, was a member of the Panthers’ 2021 Class 3A state championship team, while Baldus, a sophomore defender, was a reserve on O’Fallon’s girls basketball squad that beat Benet in double overtime to capture the Class 4A state title back in March.
Now they’ll have a shot to win another one after they combined on the game-winning goal in a 2-0 victory over Lincoln-Way East in the state semifinals Friday night at North Central College.
“You can’t even describe it,” Peterson said. “You work for it all season.
“It’s your goal every year. It’s the best feeling ever and we’re so excited.”
The Panthers (20-3-1), who will play Barrington (23-0-2) for the championship at 7 p.m. Saturday, controlled most of the match against the underdog Griffins (21-5-0), who were able keep the game scoreless for over 39 minutes.
But O’Fallon broke through with a demoralizing strike with only 13.9 seconds remaining in the first half when Peterson sent a corner kick in from the right side and Baldus powered home a header from 10 yards.
“I felt so good just to see that go in the back of the net,” Baldus said. “We had possession the entire half and didn’t get a goal in. But then we get that in, and it really lifted us up.”
The 5-foot-11 Baldus presents an inviting target, so Peterson knew exactly what she wanted to do with O’Fallon’s first corner kick of the game.
“I always know that I can find Addie’s head,” Peterson said. “She’s great in the air, and she always makes that back post run for us. I knew if I put it on the back post, she could connect with it.”
The serve and the strike were both perfect. There was nothing Lincoln-Way East goalkeeper Mattea Arroyo, who already had made six of her nine saves to keep the Panthers at bay, could have done to stop it.
“It was beautiful,” Peterson said. “The time was really ticking down.
“We’ve been practicing it all week. II knew I had to stay composed on that corner, and I played it to her head.”
Peterson, who wears no. 7, and Baldus, who wears no. 11, proved to be a decisive duo. Could they perhaps be nicknamed after a certain convenience store chain?
“Yes, we are the 7-Eleven girls,” Peterson exclaimed. “We’re roommates this weekend, so we are bonding.”
It was a bond the Griffins, who were outshot 14-1 and never mounted a sustained attack, could not break. And when Marquette-bound senior striker Kiley McMinn scored on another great header with 25:44 to go in the second half, Lincoln-Way East’s fate was sealed.
It was the 48th goal of the season for McMinn, who nodded Sadie Mueller’s cross off the underside of the crossbar and in to cap the scoring.
McMinn, who is playing on a bad ankle which was injured during sectional play, was held to one shot before intermission but started wearing down the Griffins in the second half.
“She is phenomenal,” Peterson said. “I’ve played with her since I was in fourth grade, and she’s the best player I’ve ever played with.”
But McMinn is far from O’Fallon’s only great player.
Lincoln-Way East got a jolt of hope when O’Fallon midfielder Avery Taake was ejected after getting her second yellow card with 22:54 remaining.
But the Griffins failed to capitalize on the man-advantage, even after switching to a 4-3-3 formation. The Panthers still retained much of the possession and never came close to surrendering a shot.
“Even playing a man down, they still had a lot of possession,” Lincoln-Way East coach Mike Murphy said. “Unfortunately, they were a better team than us.
“They had a lot of weapons. (Mueller) was a phenomenal girl in the middle. Their center mid was great.”
The Panthers did not go into a defensive shell while shorthanded, which Peterson attributed to the skills of Mueller.
“We didn’t change anything,” Peterson said. “It was crazy. One man down and we still possessed the entire half. They touched it, but we had the whole possession.
“Sadie Mueller is phenomenal with her feet. So, in the second half it was about getting it to her feet. She’s a great distributor, and she just really locked down the midfield and made my job very easy.
“They didn’t know how to handle her style and possession. She really orchestrated it for the rest of us to be able to not have to drop back and defend a ton.”
That helped take the pressure off defenders like Baldus, who then could focus more on starting the attack.
“I feel confident passing it to her knowing she can dribble around people and get it out,” Baldus said.
Lincoln-Way East’s defenders battled hard to get the ball out of trouble and Arroyo was stellar – and gritty – between the pipes. She briefly had to leave the game just before McMinn’s goal after getting the wind knocked out of her while stopping a shot from Allie Tredway on the right post.
“I was guarding the goal, and it hit me right in the stomach,” Arroyo said. “And then I went down, and I couldn’t get back up.”
Despite the loss, Arroyo was pleased with how her team battled.
“It was a really good game,” Arroyo said. “We really played our hearts out.
“Their two goals, there’s not much to do (about that), but we really put up a fight. I think we did amazing.”
GK: Kendall Joggerst
D: Reagan Schrekenberg
D: Emerson Nieroda
D: Addison Baldus
D: Finley Scott
M: Avery Taake
M: Sadie Mueller
M: Ella Peterson
F: Allie Tredway
F: Claire Nieroda
F: Kylie McMinn
GK: Mattea Arroyo
D: Camden Cosich
D: Mia Hedrick
D: Emily Herlihy
D: Hannah Tokarski
M: Kara Waishwell
M: Brooklyn Mortell
M: Elizabeth Burfeind
M: Breanna Herlihy
F: Cami Butler
F: Madison Dziedzic
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Addison Baldus, so., D, O’Fallon
Officials: Michele Waldbeesser (center), Mariusz Folta (AR1), Dylan Kramer (AR2), Alex Kuvshinhagen (4th)
O’Fallon: Addison Baldus (Ella Peterson) :13.9 remaining
O’Fallon: Kylie McMinn (Sadie Mueller) 25:44 remaining