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Game story: Believe and achieve: Lockport tops Glenbrook South in OT

By Bill Esbrook, 03/17/24, 9:30AM CDT


Czech dispels doubts, scores Golden Goal to advance Porters to Windy City semis

BURBANK -- In 1973, the underdog New York Mets advanced all the way to the World Series using the mantra ‘Ya Gotta Believe.’

After Saturday’s game against Glenbrook South, Lockport might want to start using that same battle cry.

Playing in the quarterfinals of the Windy City Ram Classic at Reavis, the Porters and Titans finished regulation tied at 1-1.

And with just 50 seconds remaining in the first five-minute overtime period, Lockport senior backliner Emma Czech stepped up to take a 40-yard free kick after a Glenbrook South foul.


Czech, a two-year varsity player, hadn’t yet scored a single goal in her career with the Porters and admitted she ‘hasn’t been the greatest lately’ at free kicks.

And just to add to the pressure, the senior had to deal with a 35-mph crosswind that wreaked havoc on passes and shots all day.

That didn’t faze Lockport coach Todd Elkei in the least.

“We were just working on those in practice yesterday,” said Elkei, “and she (Czech) told me, ‘I can’t do these.’ I told her ‘Yes, you can.’”

So what to do? Just believe.

“I told myself, ‘Don’t think about it. Just do it’,” said Czech. “Just hit the ball.

“I tried to read the wind as best I could. I had to hit to the right, and I tried (to figure out) how hard I should hit it.

“Once I kicked the ball, I knew it was going in.”

Czech shook off the nerves and booted a high-arcing, perfectly placed shot that flew past the outstretched hand of Glenbrook South keeper Mikayla Morse.

Morse made a gallant attempt at the save by leaping high in the air, but the ball sailed just over her fingertips and into the top left corner of the net.

It was a Golden Goal, and a victory that put the Porters in the Windy City semis against Lincoln-Way West at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Reavis. 

“Oh my gosh, I was so shocked,” said Lockport freshman forward Yurida Hernandez. "I was literally screaming at the top of my lungs. 

“We were just going through these in practice, and I didn’t expect anything less from Emma.”

Neither did Elkei.

“When Emma is fully confident,” said the coach, “she’s a great player. She’s unreal.

“She told me she couldn’t do them (free kicks). And then she went out there and she did it. It was perfect.”

Glenbrook South (2-1-0), ranked 13th in the Chicagoland Soccer First 50 preseason poll, competed just about dead-even with no. 10 Lockport the entire game. Titans coach Cassidy Price talked about the strong commitment that her players have made to the season.

“We played them (Lockport) toe-to-toe,” said Price, “and I’ve told (our kids) that if you believe, you can do anything.”

There’s that word again.

“If you want the moment, close your eyes and visualize everything,” added Price. "Take a deep breath and find that inner warrior.

“I give a lot of kudos to our girls, because they say a lot of that stuff too. They do a good job of getting themselves ready, whether they’re on the bench or on the field.

“Everybody has bought in 100 percent to this program, and that’s really nice.”

The match consisted of 35-minute halves due to tournament rules, instead of the usual 40. In the first half, the ball seemed to have a mind of its own due to the extreme wind.

It was flying every which way but loose around the field, definitely limiting the shots that were sent on goal. Still, Lockport was able to open the scoring prior to intermission.

In the 33rd minute, Hernandez saw the ball bouncing amongst a pack of players about 15 yards from the Titans goal, and was able to head it over to teammate Ava Kozak.

Kozak finished from seven yards from a bad angle to give the Porters the lead.

“A great header from our freshman,” said Kozak, a junior, “and I was able to bury it in the bottom left corner.”

Hernandez added that she had no doubt that by passing the ball to Kozak, good things would happen.

“I knew she could do it,” said the frosh. “She’s a baller.”

Then came halftime. Kozak said she and her teammates talked in the brief five-minute break about staying the course.

“We had to keep the energy up,” said Kozak, “and keep it going.

“It was tough dealing with the wind, but I’m with a great group of girls. We were able to get around it.”

The Porters plan was to play tough defensively in the final 35 minutes and keep Glenbrook South off the scoreboard.

But the TItans, and senior Lindsey Ciss, had other plans.

Ciss, a defender, played lights out in the first half. She was the catalyst that held Lockport to one goal with several stellar defensive plays in the Glenbrook South end of the pitch.

Then with time running down in the second half, she made her presence felt on offense by scoring the equalizer.

A 30-yard free kick from Ciss in the 60th minute tied the game.

“There was a foul outside the box,” she said, “and I thought that with the weather conditions, I should take a shot on goal.

“I sent it to the top-front post corner, and it went in. We had the wind at our back in the second half, and that boosted our chances.

“I think that this game makes us realize that we can come back from a deficit. We came out fighting really hard. We did a good job here, and we’re going to continue to get better.”

Glenbrook South, with the momentum, kept pressing the issue and almost won the game with 10 seconds left in regulation.

Lauren Koopersmith sent a desperation shot high in the air toward the Lockport goal, where it drifted and changed directions at least twice.

It almost found the back of the net, but Porters goalkeeper Liz Rock tracked it down for the big save.

Lockport (3-0-0) had an early chance in OT. Senior midfielder Kaylin Klutcharch sent a though-ball in toward Kozak, who was making a run in the direction of the Titans goal line.

But keeper Morse came off her line to snag the ball, and play went back and forth until the clock showed :50 remaining.

Then came the clutch kick from Czech, and once it went in the Porters bench erupted, rushing the field to celebrate with the players on the field.

And to congratulate the hero of the day, Czech.

“I knew she had it in the bag,” said Kozak, another teammate who had a ton of confidence in Czech. “What a great shot by Emma.”

“We have high expectations for the year,” added Elkei. “This is a confident group, and they play at a high level.

“We have experienced kids, and then we have some newcomers like Yurida (Hernandez). She’s made a big impact on our team.”

Elkei also took a moment to compliment the opposition.

“They’re well-coached,” he said, “and they did a really good job with their shape and tactics. It took us a little while to adjust to their speed. They were running us ragged for a while.”

And referring to that pestering wind that caused numerous problems for both teams, Glenbrook South’s Price said that it’s just one more challenge to deal with.

“I ask my girls to prepare for every situation,” said Price, “whether it’s rain, whether it’s wind, anything.

“Just stay composed, remember who we are and what our identity is as a team, and play our game.”

Starting lineups

Glenbrook South
GK: Mikayla Morse
D: Avery Splear
D: Sofia Ollmert
D: Adyson Clemen
D: Lindsey Ciss
M: Claire Baim
M: Olivia Ollmert
M: Lauren Koopersmith
M: Katie Condon
F: Sofia Sommer
F: Megan Murray

GK: Liz Rock
D: Karolina Skubisz
D: Brinlee McNabb
D: Emma Czech
D: Alyssa Flood
M: Natalie Zodrow
M: Abbey Mack
M: Kaylin Klutharch
M: Meghan Mack
F: Ava Kozak
F: Tiffany Giannese

Chicagoland Soccer MVPs of the Match: Emma Czech, sr., D, Lockport; Lindsey Ciss, sr., D, Glenbrook South

Scoring summary

First half
Lockport: Kozak (Hernandez), 33'

Second half
Glenbrook South: Ciss (free kick), 60'

First overtime
Lockport: Czech (free kick), 74'