skip navigation

Game story: Palatine’s Waddington flips script in win over Prospect

By Patrick Z. McGavin , 05/02/24, 4:30PM CDT


Gymnast’s assist, goal lead 3-2 Mid-Suburban League win

PALATINE — As an elite two-sport athlete Jolee Waddington is a player for most seasons.

Her grace, athleticism and versatility propelled her to a second place finish in the state individual all-around gymnastics competition. She finished third in her specialty, the uneven parallel bars, and was eighth in the floor exercise.

Waddington knows how to float and move in space. She also knows how to fuse characteristics of her two sports together to optimize the best aspects of each. Her trademark is now the flip throw-in, which has become a crucial and heightened offense-producing aspect of the Pirates’ set piece capabilities.

But she only pulls out the flip throw at the right moments.

“It depends where the throw is coming from. I like to measure how far I can throw it in that situation,” said Waddington, who has a team-best 15 goals and 13 assists.

“I always have this superstition I go through every time. I bounce the ball twice, roll it and bounce it again, and I usually get the momentum that I need.”

Waddington’s flip throw-in created the first of two goals by Allie Sobel. Then the thrower scored what turned out to be a needed insurance goal that offset a furious Prospect rally in a 3-2 Mid-Suburban League victory Wednesday night.

For their excellent play, the pair shared the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor.

In the second half, Palatine (7-6-1, 5-5-0) broke the game open with goals from Sobel and Waddington that came just 45 seconds apart and appeared to put the Pirates on the way to a one-sided outcome.

But Prospect (3-12-2, 1-8-1), behind the spirited and creative play of midfielder Julia Valentini, fought back with energy and burst and nearly erased the three-goal Palatine lead in a near-stunning conclusion.

A Valentini corner kick set up a last-second shot in the box by forward Sara McKenna that Pirates’ keeper Lila Hanson pulled into her grasp as time expired.

Valentini assisted both Prospect goals, the first by forward Ella Sommers in the 59th minute.

“It’s tough to go down by two or three goals like that, but we wanted to win this game, and we knew we had a chance,” Sommers said. “Sometimes we have this mentality of getting scored on, and we have to go out and try and do more than what they did.

“This was definitely a game where we kept fighting. We’ve been down in games like this where we haven’t come back. We were close at the end.”

If Waddington has been the breakout performer at Palatine, Sobel is the more under the radar, steady, assured and developing talent. She outpaced her season scoring-total game in one game.

Waddington’s speed, agility and quickness on the ball allowed the Pirates to push numbers and subtly apply pressure.

Sobel was the beneficiary of a connection of a Waddington hockey assist in the 20th minute on a gorgeous set piece score that was the early turning point of the game.

Working from the far-left side on the throw-in, Waddington performed her flip, demonstrating touch and velocity while placing the ball into the box. 

Midfielder Ilianna Hernandez headed the ball, and Sobel finished with a sweeping half-volley from about four yards in a perfectly synchronized action.

“It’s something that we work on a lot in practice,” Sobel said. “I know I always have to be ready on those corners or throw-ins. I have to always be hungry and ready in the box.

“I was there in the moment, and I just had to bury it.”

It was the third time this season Palatine scored as a result of Waddington’s flip throw-ins.

Palatine maintained its edge and sharp play at the start of the second half. Waddington’s speed and aggressiveness at the top of the attack drove the action.

Waddington stretched the defense and opened the field for midfielders such as Sobel, Hernandez and Ava Millan to flourish in the middle of the attack. 

Everything connected over a sustained and fluid 60-second burst at the 52nd minute. Waddington pushed sharply forward, but had her shot denied on a terrific play by Prospect keeper Olivia Lala, who got a last-second start after regular keeper Sarah Bradbury fell ill after the starting lineups were announced.

Palatine’s Gretchen Kiesler maintained possession on the far edge on the right side, and played a perfect service that Sobel timed brilliantly for the finish in front of the Prospect goal.

“I really rely on my teammates a lot, like Ava or Ilianna,” Sobel said. “We all work really well together in the midfield, keeping that triangle, and we play off each other really well.

“We get those goals even without even having to communicate directly. We just know who’s going to get what, and where they are going to be. I just had to step up.”

Goals are gut-wrenching experiences — the elated and the dejected, respectively. With Prospect still reeling from the aftermath of the second Sobel goal, the Pirates jumped up a notch.

Forward Maya Virgen slotted a ball into space, and Waddington stepped into the shot from 14 yards and sent it clean and pure inside the near post.

Forty-five seconds, two goals, 3-0 lead.

“I have great teammates who know how I like to play, and they are always there to support me,” Waddington said. “Maya knows every play that I’m going to make even before I do it. She’s my rock, and I could not do it without her.

“Having Allie in the middle to feed off her is also great. Having great teammates and players around you are really all that matters.”

The nature of the game and the cruelty of being on the wrong side means that teams are always fighting for recognition and relevance. Prospect knows its record is not indicative its players or effort.

The Knights came into the game off a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat April 26 against repeat East Division champion Hersey on a goal in the 70th minute.

“We’re so much better than our record,” Sommers said. “We have fought and battled against great teams, like Hersey, up until the last second. The goal they scored against us was not a great goal. It was kind of lucky.

“It shows that we can play with these teams, even if our record doesn’t always relay that fact.”

Freshman center back Addison Coval was a revelation for the Knights, a physical and gifted athlete who showed great awareness, touch on the ball and disruptive ability.

Valentini is the heart of the team. Her creativity, touch and high work-rate helped the Knights switch gears and get back into the game.

In the 59th minute, Valentini drove the right edge and played a terrific cross that Sommers finished from nine yards.

Losing is a state of mind that has to be broken. Valentini helped the Knights snap out of their pessimistic outlook.

“I think in the past, after we got scored on, we tended to get really down, and just let it get to our heads,” Valentini said. “After they scored those two goals a minute apart in the second half, we just said we needed to get our stuff together, come back.

 “We always have the fire in us, and I think we finally got to show that.”

Valentini set up the second goal in the closing moments. She fired hard down the left edge and blasted a shot from about 24 yards that pulled Hanson off her line.

McKenna pounced on the loose ball in front of the goal and finished from a couple of yards.

Prospect showed admirable resilience and fight that lasted until the final play of the game. Valentini drove down the right edge and created the corner. McKenna had a decent attempt that Hanson pulled into her body.

“We can’t be too mad about this game,” Valentini said. “They scored a few goals in a very short time, and maybe that showed a weakness.

“The way we came back fighting is something that we have to be proud about.”

Starting lineups

GK: Olivia Lala
D: Elena Katsogianos
D: Addison Coval
D: Jane Klostermeyer
D: Sienna Murray
MF: Maddie Bielecki
MF: Julia Valentini
MF: Abby Davis
F: Maeve Morris
F: Mia Whiteman
F: Ella Sommers

GK: Lila Hanson
D: Kaitlyn Kania
D: Madeline Rams
D: Claire Zach
D: Gretchen Kiesler
MF: Allie Sobel
MF: Ava Millan
MF: Ilianna Hernandez
MF: Jocelyn Bonilla
F: Maya Virgen
F: Jolee Waddington

Chicagoland Soccer MVPs of the Match: Jolee Waddington, so., F, Palatine; 
Allie Sobel, jr., MF, Palatine

Scoring summary

First half
Palatine—Allie Sobel (Jolee Waddington/Ilianna Hernandez), 20’

Second half
Palatine—Sobel (Gretchen Kiesler), 52’
Palatine—Waddington (Maya Virgen), 53’
Prospect—Ella Sommers (Julia Valentini), 59’
Prospect—Sara McKenna (Valentini), 78’