Girls soccer: Gabby McPhee’s goal helps Oswego East eliminate Oswego

Oswego East's Gabby McPhee (7) smiles after scoring a goal against Oswego during a Class 3A Lockport Regional semifinal soccer match at Lockport High School in Lockport on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

LOCKPORT – During warmups for the big regional soccer semifinal matchup against their crosstown rivals, Gabby McPhee had a simple message to her all-state Oswego East teammate, Anya Gulbrandsen.

“I told her if she hears me yell, get me the ball for a chance,” McPhee said.

In the 65th minute, that’s exactly what happened. McPhee found herself open and Gulbrandsen delivered a perfect pass. The sophomore midfielder delivered, tapping in an insurance goal as the Wolves outlasted Oswego 2-0 in a Lockport Class 3A semifinal match.

Oswego East (14-6-2) will face the undefeated host Porters (23-0), who are ranked No. 1 in the state, at 5 p.m. Friday for the regional championship.

“We’re confident,” McPhee said of the prospect of playing the Porters on their home field. “We just have to play our game.”

The Wolves played their game against Oswego (11-9-5) and avenged a 2-0 home loss to the Panthers on April 23 in a Southwest Prairie Conference game.

“That’s something we’ve worked on all year,” Gulbrandsen said of the play with her and McPhee. “I’m on the right side and it looks like an easy play but it’s not.”

A big key, of course, is that Gulbrandsen, the all-time leading goal scorer in school history, is a threat to score. So she drew Oswego freshman keeper Kyla Baier out of the net in an attempt to cut off a shot. Instead, she crossed a perfect pass to McPhee.

“It was a gorgeous pass,” McPhee said. “It was a really big goal to get.”

The play worked at a perfect time.

“I saw her in the box, screaming,” Gulbrandsen said. “Gabby is really intelligent and knew what to do. We’ve had similar plays but this was the most clutch goal of the year.”

The assist was the ninth on the season for Gulbrandsen, a senior forward who has committed to continue to play at the University of Wisconsin. It was also her 35th career assist, setting a new school record.

“It feels good,” Gulbrandsen said of etching her name in the record book again.

Oswego East coach Juan Leal knows that Gulbrandsen is good, really good.

“She’s having a heck of a season,” said Leal, who is in his eighth season as Wolves head coach. “She’s the best player I’ve had.”

This shows why Gulbrandsen was the one to take a penalty kick in the first half. She buried her attempt in the upper right corner with exactly 23:23 left in the first half. That gave her 27 goals on the season and 89 in her career.

The Panthers had numerous opportunities, including more than Oswego East in the second half. But they simply couldn’t connect. Sophomore striker Jordyn Washington, who had 22 goals on the season, saw her attempts saved by junior keeper Maddie McGregor or altered by the Wolves defense of seniors Emma Klosterman, Morgan Dick, and Alex Hoger, along with junior Jocelyn Cruz.

“I was triple-teamed and they did well on me,” Washington said. “(Next season) it’s just going to be able to stay composed and keep pushing it.”

Senior midfielders Gillian Young and Natalie Braun, along with sophomore midfielder Peyton Johnson also had opportunities, including one by Braun that was saved with 11:11 to play in the game.

“We controlled much of the game,” Oswego coach Gasper Arias said. “We had possession a lot, we just couldn’t capitalize. We had one silly mistake (on the PK) and that’s the game. But I’m still proud of the way we played this season.”

Two years ago, the Wolves won a regional title, the first in school history. They know it’s a tough task to win one on Friday, But they will be ready.

“Playing Lockport is an opportunity and I hope we can seize it,” Leal said. “We have to clean up our mistakes but we have the heart to do it.”