Girls Soccer: ‘It was really nerve-wracking’ Downers Grove North beats Glenbard East in PKs for regional title
By Scott Schmid
LOMBARD – Finding the back of the net has been an issue this spring for the Downers Grove North girls soccer team.
But when it mattered most Friday, that certainly wasn’t the case with the season on the line.
After the Trojans and host Glenbard East remained tied through 100 minutes, seven consecutive Downers Grove North players converted penalty kicks to give the visitors a 2-1 OT victory and a Class 3A regional title.
Charlotte Hansen provided the match-winner which sends the Trojans (11-8-2) to the Glenbard West sectional on Tuesday. It was the program’s first regional championship since 2018 after falling a goal short to Oak Park-River Forest and Downers Grove South, respectively, in 2021 and 2019.
Addison Liszka, Taylor Kuelthau, Kendall Hennelly, Kaitlyn Parker, Ellie Watts and Angelina Santiago also scored in that order.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Hansen said. “I didn’t expect it to go through all 10 shooters (five from each team). So when it got to me in the seventh round, I was a bit on edge. I was pretty nervous. But we’ve been practicing them; the last week we have been practicing PKs all the time at the end (of practice). Coach told us to go low to the corners and then I saw my kick go up but it still went in.”
The senior’s goal was necessary because the Rams (15-6-1) also made six straight before DGN goalie Lily Johnson registered a save on the seventh attempt.
“I feel like I need a wardrobe agent,” said Johnson, who on two occasions during the match subbed out as goalie for Elizabeth Reilly, changed jerseys and moved to the midfield. “I thought the individual efforts by both teams in the penalty kicks were the best I’ve seen by far. Thankfully I was able to get that last one.”
Hennelly had opened the scoring with a 20-yard direct kick into the upper-right hand corner of the goal midway through the second half.
“My dad always tells me to try curving it around,” Hennelly said. “I listened to my dad and tried to go do it for him and I curved it in. It was the best feeling. One of the biggest reasons we wanted this game so bad, we lost a year in there, Covid took that away from us. So this now is our time, that is what the seniors have been saying.”
It seemed her goal would hold up but Glenbard East’s Maia Zatarski had other ideas. The senior scored her 21st goal of the season on a great individual play with 3:07 left, cutting back in the box after a long run and finding the upper part of the net with her shot.
“I was just hoping to get a shot off,” Zatarski said. “That was one of my happiest moments in soccer. I just love our team so much. At the beginning of the season, we had some rough patches but at the end of the season, we came together.”
A big part of the late season success, which included eight straight wins all by shutout, was the goalkeeping of Zoe Romano. The senior made an outstanding save with 10 minutes left in the first half to keep the match scoreless.
“It’s been an amazing four years, anything but ordinary,” Romano said. “We accomplished one of our main goals and that was winning conference along with Bartlett. This season was a great way to end my four years here.”
Natalie Bornean, Jasmine Dhamers, Maddie Kiefer, Ciara Johnson, Zatarski and Hope McKenna each made a penalty kick for the Rams, who gave up just 17 goals all spring.
“When you make six (penalty) shots, you think you are going to win,” Glenbard East coach Kent Overbey said. “Hats off to them (DGN), all of their shots were incredible. Zoe guessed right a couple of times and got her hands on a couple but they made some great shots. I’m so proud of this team, it’s such a great group of kids.”
The third-seeded Trojans, who will play either Glenbard West or York next, improved to 3-0 in penalty kicks this spring.
“Anytime you play Glenbard East, you know you are in for a defensive battle,” DGN coach Brian Papa said. “I love how our girls stepped up, they didn’t quit. To give up the equalizer with three minutes left, that’s tough to come back from.”