LA GRANGE PARK – Wheaton Academy goalkeeper Sara Swoboda was called on to make a great save early in Wednesday’s Class 2A Nazareth Regional semifinal with rival St. Francis – and the Warriors senior passed the early test.
Her nice stop on the Spartans’ talented midfielder Claire Reinke five minutes into the match kept the game scoreless and enabled Wheaton Academy to eventually take a 1-0 lead at the half. After the lead grew to 2-0 in the second half, the Warriors managed to hang on for a 2-1 win to advance to the regional finals Friday against host Nazareth.
“It definitely gives me more confidence at the beginning of the game,” said Swoboda, who recorded 11 saves, including the one that kept the game scoreless early on. “It happens so fast sometimes that you barely know what you’re doing, but it was really fun to be able to get that save. It’s tough coming back from a goal early on. It gets the team down, so I was so happy to make that save for my team.”
The two teams just closed out the regular season against one another on Friday, and St. Francis pulled out a 2-1 victory to claim a share of the Metro Suburban Blue title along with both Wheaton Academy and Riverside-Brookfield. But on Wednesday it was the Warriors on the right side of a 2-1 outcome that extended their season.
“We had two great goals and we talked about how you need to value every chance, whether it’s a set piece, a free kick or a corner kick. All of them matter,” Wheaton Academy coach Maria Selvaggio said. “I’m just glad that we were able to find the net twice. Defensively, they have some players … our keeper played well and our defenders played a tough 80 minutes.”
Sophomore Katelyn Schoepke opened the night’s scoring with 11:54 left in the first half. Speedy Emily Setran had raced up the right side and earned a corner kick that bounded around before Schoepke buried it in the back of the net.
“I was just like hanging back in case the ball popped out,” she said of her second tally this spring. “I saw and it and just put it in. I was excited. It’s pretty cool.”
The Warriors (14-6-2) managed just two shots on goal in the second half, but the first one resulted in a Lily Lebo goal and a 2-0 lead. A long free kick off the foot of Haleigh Manske appeared harmless but after it bounded around and was not cleared, Lebo put it away for a 2-0 lead that proved to be the difference.
Just 14 seconds later Reinke set up Paige Chrustowski to give the Spartans a spark, but St. Francis just couldn’t get the equalizer and the young squad closed the year 7-8-1 after its five-game winning streak was snapped.
“We outshot them badly and we outcornered them badly,” Spartans coach Jim Winslow said. “The game was ugly, which was to their advantage, right. The goalkeeper situation came back to bite us on the second goal, but that’s inexperience. The group we have coming in next year is dynamite so the future’s bright.”
Reinke, one of few upperclassmen on the young St. Francis squad, expects big things for the program in the near future.
“I was really happy that we played until the very end,” she said. “We had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t finish. I know I had a couple opportunities that I could have put in. But they’re going to be amazing in a couple years, maybe even next year.”