PRINCETON – Last season, the Princeton girls soccer team made a run to a sectional championship.
However, a revised postseason because of COVID-19, meant the Tigresses didn’t get a chance to raise a regional plaque along the way.
Princeton made up for that Friday.
The No. 4-seeded Tigresses defeated No. 6 seed Genoa-Kingston, 6-0, to win the Class 1A Princeton Regional.
“It obviously feels good to win a regional championship at home,” Princeton coach David Gray said. “I’m proud of this team. They’ve improved so much through the year. We’ve grown individually and collectively. I’m happy for them that they get to have this moment right now and enjoy it.”
After receiving their plaque from PHS athletic director Jeff Ohlson and celebrating at midfield, the Tigresses took pictures in the goal and lingered on the field with family and friends.
“To hold up a plaque on our home field means a lot,” Princeton senior Maggie Davis said. “Coach has won a [regional] title with the guys and we wanted to give him the same experience with the girls. It’s great to be a senior and leave our legacy like that.”
Princeton (17-7) advances to play Rockford Christian in the Hinckley-Big Rock Sectional semifinals at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Rockford Christian beat Winnebago 6-1 in the Rockford Christian Regional final Friday.
“Coming off a sectional championship last year, I hope we’re hungry for more, because I think we’re capable of getting to the next step,” said Gray, whose team beat Rockford Christian in the sectional final last season. “We’ll enjoy it tonight and then refocus.”
The Tigresses got on the board in the 14th minute when Mariah Hobson beat a defender and fired a long shot into the net.
Nora Schneider lofted a goal over the G-K keeper on an assist from Hobson to give the Tigresses a 2-0 lead with 14:56 left in the first half, which PHS took into halftime.
“Honestly, I don’t think it was our cleanest game,” Gray said. “I think we were anxious about the moment, so especially early in the game, there was a lot of kick and run and not clean soccer. I’d like to see us possess the ball a little more and really open up easier chances, especially early. In second half we settled down a little bit and started moving the ball a little bit better.”
The Tigresses exploded for six goals during a six-minute stretch in the second half.
Hobson received a pass from Olivia Mattingly, turned and found the back of the net.
Four minutes later, Hobson dribbled around the defense and scored in the lower left corner of the net, and she added her fourth goal when she headed in a corner kick from Schneider.
Schneider capped the scoring with a goal with 43 seconds left.
“At the beginning, we didn’t play our strongest, but we came back and we gained back our confidence eventually,” Schneider said. “[In the second half], we just looked up and played more passes. We had many combo plays and it was just feet to feet.”
With four goals Friday, Hobson has 62 on the season, eclipsing the area record for single-season goals of 60 set by Mendota’s Lauren Kellen in 2011.
Hobson’s 62 goals rank fourth in state history in a single season.
“I love Mariah, she’s absolutely amazing, and having her up front we can get a couple passes to her and she does wonders,” Davis said.
While the Tigresses scored six goals, the PHS defense limited the Cogs’ chances.
“On defense, Emma Kruse-Carter stood out,” Gray said. “Her ball winning was outstanding. In the moments we weren’t playing well, her and Maggie really held the ship and allowed us to settled in to where we could start controlling the ball in then midfield and getting better chances going forward.”
The Cogs finish the season 7-9-1.
“I felt we played very well, considering we were playing a tougher team,” G-K coach Holly Lippold said. “We took it further than I ever imagined for this year. We’re very excited to come back next year.
“We’ve exceeded some records. We haven’t made it this far since 2016, so I feel they’ve done very well considering we’re mostly freshmen and sophomores. I told them we set the bar. Now we have to start at that bar instead of starting at ground zero again and working our way up.”