JOLIET — The Minooka Indians girls soccer team faced rarely chartered waters Tuesday, as they competed in only their second-ever sectional match.
The inexperience showed, as the Normal Lady Iron scored 90 seconds into the game en route to a 3-0 victory over the Indians at Joliet West, ending Minooka’s season.
“When you’re down a minute and 15 seconds into the game, it’s tough,” Minooka head coach Chris Brolley said. “We just had to battle back and keep our heads focused on our game plan.”
The goal came off an early hand ball against the Indians that gave Normal a free kick from the goalie box line. This is where senior Holly Gregory stepped up for the Lady Iron, putting the ball past Minooka goalie Mallory Schade for the early lead.
“It was a fortunate spot for us, and fortunate timing as well,” Normal head coach Matt Chapman said. “Gregory has done that for us before, where she’ll put a quick shot in the back of the net. We caught a break there.”
Normal continued to dominate play throughout the first half, but Schade was able to stand her ground. The Indians had a chance late to score, as they had a corner kick with 30 seconds left in the first half. Minooka senior Jill Hetfleisch sent the ball in, and it seemed as if Lauren Simon had a chance to tie the game up. The senior missed the flying ball, however, and landed awkwardly on her leg. She was carried off the field and didn’t return.
“She’s one of their top players, too, so I’m sure they had to make some tough adjustments,” Chapman said.
“It’s unfortunate for her, but we really weren’t thinking abut it much. We were trying to focus on our game.”
“We’ve worked on that play all year, and that’s a play designed for her,” Brolley added about the setup before the injury to Simon. “She was wide open, but then her knee gave out. Injuries happen, so I’m glad to see her walking on it. Seems like she’s going to be OK.”
With one of their best players down, the Indians knew that they were going to need a lot of work to climb back into it. Five minutes into the half, though, Normal caught a break, as the shot from the Lady Iron’s Whitney Learned went off Minooka defender Jordan Andrews and into the Indians’ net, putting Normal ahead by two goals.
“When you give up a trickle goal like that, it’s hard to come back in a game,” Brolley said.
Minooka had chances later to get back in it, but it couldn’t find a way to score. Normal scored its final goal in the last minute, as Hannah Rogers hit one in.
One of the reasons why Normal was so successful defensively was because it shut down Minooka’s goal leader in Hetfleisch. She was double- and triple-teamed all game, basically shutting her down all afternoon.
“We had someone assigned to her at all times, and then we had someone a little farther back in case she would get a chance to score,” Chapman said of their strategy against Hetfleisch. “I feel like our kids did a real nice job of defending her because we were definitely worried about her. She’s a great player.”
The win advances Normal to the sectional final Friday down at Collinsville. Although the loss ends their season, Brolley is proud of how the way his Indians performed.
“Overall it was a great season for us,” Brolley said. “To go 13-7 and make it to the sectional semi-finals was awesome. A couple breaks just didn’t go our way today, and that’s what playoff soccer is like.”