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Game story: Crystal Lake tops Burlington in Central battle

By Jared Birchfield, 04/20/24, 9:15AM CDT


Tigers take ‘must-win’ match, fortify Fox Valley mark

BURLINGTON – Thursday’s Fox Valley Conference match on Rocket Hill pitted Crystal Lake Central, the defending league champion against Burlington Central, last year’s runnerup and a primary contender for this year’s crown. Less than ideal weather conditions – a steady downpour during most of the match – made the contest more challenging.

Crystal Lake Central, ranked 15th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, held off Burlington Central 2-0 to tighten its grip on the league’s top spot. The Tigers are now a perfect 4-0-0 in league play.

Two Rocket goals, both nullified by offside calls, made it a tough result for Burlington Central to take.

A goal in each half – Jillian Mueller in the first and Addison Schaffer in the second – provided Crystal Lake Central’s offense.

Burlington Central goalkeeper Kenzie Lorkowski turned in a stellar performance making 11 saves including turning away a Crystal Lake Central penalty kick.

“Going into this, we knew that they were probably going to be one of the toughest teams in conference. If we wanted to retain the title this year and not share it with anyone, this was a game that was a must-win,” said Crystal Lake Central coach Sarah Fack.

Lorkowski stopped five shots in the first half before Mueller hit paydirt with 2:52 left in the period. After taking a feed from Addison Schaffer, the senior’s shot from the right corner of the box went over the keeper’s head for a 1-0 lead.

“I got the ball at my feet, which I like, and I got around my defender,” Mueller said of her fourth goal of the season. “I was actually hoping to hit it on the ground, but it went up and in.”

Lorkowski, one of Chicagoland Soccer’s MVPs of the Match, was a worthy opponent according to Mueller.

“(Lorkowski) was really good. It gets kind of frustrating going against keepers like her,” said the senior forward. “But it just makes the goals a lot more rewarding.” 

The wet grass pitch made defending the goal harder.

“The ball was moving a lot faster. It was bouncy and wet” said the sophomore keeper. “We were told before the game we had to take shots like from anywhere, because the ball was going to skip because the field was torn up from the game earlier.”

Fack was pleased to see Mueller, also an MVP of the Match, score.

“She hasn’t had any goals in recent games, so it was nice to see her get back on track with getting some shots and getting the goal,” the Tigers manager said. “I thought she did a nice job of being really dangerous on the right-hand side and putting on pressure. She eventually got one to fall.”

Seven minutes earlier, Burlington Central (3-6-2, 1-1-0) thought it had scored the initial goal. Crystal Lake Central (10-1-1 4-0-0) keeper Addison Cleary (six saves) deflected Rylee Butler’s close-in shot. Kendall Grigg corralled the ball and tapped it across the goal line from the goal box’s left corner. Before the Rockets could celebrate, an assistant referee’s flag signaled offside.

The Rockets had one other opportunity to score first on a free kick in the 14th minute. Eva Samuelian blast from 40 yards out was kicked away by Cleary and cleared by the Tigers’ backline.

Getting the first goal was one of the keys according to Burlington Central coach Jessica Arneson said.

“One of the things that I told them at the beginning of the game, and we’ve been trying to do, is scoring on the first opportunity,” the Rockets coach said. “We’re not quite there yet.”

After a penalty box collision in the 44th minute, Crystal Lake Central’s Paiton Hulata was awarded a penalty kick. The senior defender’s blast headed for the right corner of the net, but Lorkowski’s body blocked the shot before it crossed the line.

Schaffer scored an insurance goal in the 72nd minute. The sophomore forward scored her team-leading eighth goal by getting behind Central’s backline and knocking the ball in from 20 yards.

Burlington Central’s Mekenzie Rogers took over the Rocket’s offense in the second half. The sophomore midfielder produced five shots. Cleary and the Tigers’ backline stopped three and two went wide.

“I think she was frustrated tonight, but she’s been really good for us by helping control the middle of the field,” said Arneson. “I think she inspires them to do a little bit more.”

With 5:45 left to play, Rogers dribbled toward the goal and passed the ball to Annie Magan, who was in the left corner of the box. Magan’s shot got past Cleary, but again the Rockets were ruled offside.

Burlington Central’s attack is still a work in progress.

“We have a young offense -- it’s mostly our sophomores. They’re doing 95 percent of the work, and they’re just not putting the ball in the back of the net,” said the Rockets coach. “It’s something we’re going to continue to work on. I think it’s once it comes, it’s you’re going to see a lot of it. We just got to get the right mentality.”

Keeping Burlington Central scoreless was a major key to the win according Fack. The Tigers’ third shutout of the season required all hands on deck.

“Just keeping the shutout was really a full-team effort, just winning the 50/50s and applying pressure to keep the ball away from our defending third just because of the conditions and how dangerous any shot could become,” said the Tigers coach.

Arneson felt her team also defended well. Crystal Lake Central averages 3.4 goals per game and has only been shut out once before this season.

“The defense was awesome tonight. They were making great clearances and backing each other up. I think Rylee (Butler) was doing really great,” the Rockets coach said. “Ali Kowal’s clearances were fantastic today. She really made a difference. I’m proud of her.”

To score goals, the Rockets need to stay focused.

“It’s happened to us before,” Butler said of offside calls negating goals. “I think just like staying on, because the chances are there. We just need to figure out when to finish them.”

Starting lineups

Crystal Lake Central
GK: Addison Cleary
D: Kalissa Kaiser
D: Paiton Hulata
D: Katelyn Hallum
D: Shaylee Gough
MF: Sadie Quinn
MF: Peyton McMahon
MF: Olivia Anderson
F: Elizabeth Gray
F: Brooklyn Carlson
F: Jillian Mueller

Burlington Central
GK: Kenzie Lorkowski
D: Rylee Butler
D: Lillian Batani
D: Brianna Domaleczny
D: Alison Kowall
MF: Mekenzie Rogers
MF: Eva Samuelian
MF: Emersyn Fry
F: Sydney Batts
F: Annie Magan
F: Kendal Grigg

Chicagoland Soccer MVPs of the Match: Kenzie Lorkowski, so., GK, Burlington Central;
Jillian Mueller, sr., F, Crystal Lake Central

Scoring Summary

First half
CLC: Mueller (Shaffer) 38’

Second half
CLC: Shaffer (Carlson) 72’