HINCKLEY – The Princeton and Rockford Christian girls soccer teams have made it a bit of ritual battling in the postseason during sectional time and making them instant classics.
The 2022 version was no different, but this time it was the Lady Royal Lions coming away with the 2-1 victory in a shootout.
“This was definitely an exciting game,” Princeton coach David Gray said. “We looked vulnerable at times on the counter attacks, and they got the ball forward quick. We had a chance there in the shootout, but just fell a little short.” In the shootout, it was the Royal Lions picked up three goals to the Tigresses’ two.
Courtney Park started the scoring for the Royals Lions, sneaking it past Princeton keeper Maya Gartin.
Maggie Davis was unable to score for Princeton, and then Jada Harvey put Rockford Christian up, 2-0, with another goal. Nora Schneider got the Tigresses on the board in the shootout to draw PHS within one.
Bella McElroy kept the foot on the gas for the Royal Lions with a third straight goal, but Mariah Hobson kept Princeton close.
The Royal Lions missed their next two attempts, which gave Princeton one last shot to send the game into a second round of penalty kicks, but the shot from Gartin sailed just high, giving the Royals Lions the 2-1 victory and ending Princeton’s season.
“Last year was a nailbiter in the sectional against Princeton, losing 4-3, and so was this,” Rockford Christian coach Eron Harvey said. “We just dug down deep in the second half and overtime and then the shootout. I thought Jada Harvey was the difference. She decided she didn’t want this to be her last game, and I thought her teammates responded to her level of play.”
At the start of the game, Princeton got solid defense from Davis and then on the other end, Hobson was able to get deep into Royal Lions’ territory, but the Rockford Christian defense collapsed and stopped the attack.
“I don’t think we did a good job of getting the ball in good scoring spots to Mariah,” Gray said. “It’s hard to get goals that way, but give them credit. They’re 16-1 for a reason.”
Both teams had several opportunities to score in the first half, however, as Davis hit the top of the cross bar as did Harvey for the Royal Lions.
Hobson blasted a shot with about 12 minutes left in the first half, but Tess Combs was able to make the stop and keep the game scoreless.
A minute later, Olivia Mattingly nearly got Princeton on the board, but again the shot went off the cross bar as the score remained 0-0 at the break.
Rockford Christian was much more aggressive in the second half, and nearly made it 1-0 Princeton as the Royal Lions came close to kicking it into their own net as they tried to clear the ball.
With 29:02 remaining in regulation, Hobson made two slices through defenders and put the Tigresses ahead 1-0.
But with 14:51 remaining, Harvey blasted a corner kick in to tie the match.
“I thought we were much more aggressive in the first half,” Gray said. “Second half, we were tentative and even lazy at times getting to the ball. We were waiting for the ball to come to us instead of going after it, and I thought that hurt us a bit.”
Princeton seemed to make adjustments in the first 10 minutes of overtime and got some nice looks at the net, as did Rockford Christian, but neither team could score.
In the second 10-minute period of overtime, Princeton got a couple early shots on goal, but it was Harvey who had two outstanding looks only to be denied by Gartin.