Girls soccer: Ella Howard’s 2-goal performance lifts Geneva to 4-0 regional semifinal win over Glenbard East

Vikings to face Wheaton Warrenville South in regional finals

Geneva’s Ella Howard (14) reacts after scoring a goal against Glenbard East during a Class 3A Glenbard East Regional semifinal soccer match at Glenbard East High School in Lombard on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

LOMBARD – For a Geneva team whose roster is littered with seniors, it was a sophomore that ultimately stole the show in the opening round of the playoffs.

In her first ever playoff game, sophomore Ella Howard found the back of the net twice in two minutes to propel the fifth-seeded Vikings to a 4-0 victory over No. 11 Glenbard East in a Class 3A Glenbard East Regional semifinal on Tuesday.

Howard said that as an underclassmen, it was a confidence booster that she was able to help her upperclassmen teammates extend their season at least one more game.

“It definitely feels good to be a piece of the puzzle and to help the seniors have a good last season,” Howard said. “It definitely motivates me to do my best so they can have their best season.”

Howard’s first goal came in the 59th minute of play. After getting ahold of a Glenbard East goal kick, Olivia Hagan tapped the ball outside of the box to the sophomore, who drilled the ball into the left side of the net to make it 3-0.

Two minutes later, Howard found the back of the net again, this time from inside the box. After Lilly Coats sent a free kick into the box, the ball bounced off a couple feet before connecting with Howard, who sent the ball into the net once again to make it 4-0.

“It felt really good because I think it bought the energy up on our team in the second half,” Howard said. “It felt good to get them so close together and it was real motivating for the team.”

The Vikings (12-7-2) got out to an early start to the game after Evyn Schokora weaved her way through Glenbard East’s defenders and sent the ball into the bottom-right corner of the net to give them a 1-0 lead just nine minutes into the game.

Geneva’s Caroline Madden (20) heads the ball off a corner kick for a goal against Glenbard East during a Class 3A Glenbard East Regional semifinal soccer match at Glenbard East High School in Lombard on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

Nine minutes later, the Vikings converted once again, this time on a corner kick. With the wind blowing towards her, Audrey Stredde crossed the ball into the box to an awaiting Caroline Madden, who connected head-to-ball to give them a 2-0 lead.

“As soon as it was in the air I knew I had a shot, and I think Audrey did too, so I just had to make sure I got the angle right to get the goal,” Madden said. “It was definitely a big energy booster because we’ve been working on finishing those set pieces, so it got some momentum going.”

Vikings coach Megan Owens said that seeing the team play as a unit and with confidence in the first playoff game of the season was good to see.

“We played our game. We had a lot of different players creating offensive opportunities, so it was nice to see,” Owens said. “The first round of playoffs, there’s nerves and all that, so it was good to see things click. It builds a little confidence heading into Friday.”

Geneva will face fourth-seeded Wheaton Warrenville South on Friday for a chance at the regional championship. The Tigers defeated Lake Park 3-0 in their regional semifinal.

The two teams faced off April 4, with WWS taking a 3-1 win in the DuKane conference matchup at Geneva. But the Vikings are excited to prove how much they’ve grown as a team since that loss.

“We know what they bring since we faced them earlier in the season, and we’ve changed a lot since then,” Madden said. “We’re definitely a much more improved team, so it will be exciting to play them to see how we’ve grown and how they have as well.”

On the other side of the pitch, the Rams end their season with an 8-5-7 record. Despite the loss, Glenbard East coach Athena Toliopoulis said that the team continued to fight throughout the entirety of the 80-minute game.

“This group understands that they can play with any team, regardless of if they are down,” Toliopoulis said. “One of the things I told them at half time was that we just needed one goal, and then another one to try and mount a comeback. And they’ve always been such amazing kids and they don’t stop fighting until the final buzzer sounds.”

The Rams also said goodbye to their nine seniors with the exit, with each of them playing all four years with them. Toliopoulis said that while she hopes that the freshmen that joined the program this year will help keep East competitive next season, it’s going to be hard to replace the seniors.

“These group of girls are some of the best that I’ve ever coached,” Toliopoulis said. “I know they’re going to go on and do great things even after soccer.”

Joel Boenitz

Joel Boenitz

Joel is a sports reporter for the Kane County Chronicle. Formerly from St. Charles, Missouri, he has served as an assistant sports editor and beat reporter for the Columbia Missourian in Columbia, Missouri.