Girls soccer: Mackenzie McQuiston scores 2 late goals to lead Johnsburg to Class 1A regional title

Skyhawks come back against Marian Central to win 2nd straight regional crown

Johnsburg players celebrate their 4-3 victoryy over Marian Central in the IHSA Class 1A Marengo Regional championship soccer match on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at Marengo High School.

MARENGO – Johnsburg senior Mackenzie McQuiston has had a knack for being in the right place at the right time this season.

She was there multiple times once again Tuesday in the Class 1A Marengo Regional championship.

McQuiston scored two goals in the final 13 minutes to lead the Skyhawks to a 4-3 win over Marian Central, their second straight regional title.

“I saw a great opportunity,” McQuiston said. “Time was counting down so it was now or never.”

In a match that had constant momentum changes, McQuiston thought she had won the match for Johnsburg (14-4) when she sidestepped the ball to the right at the top of the box and scored on a shot that gave the Skyhawks a 3-2 lead with 12:02 left in the match.

But the Hurricanes took the momentum back when senior Elizabeth Drwila scored off a deep shot to tie the match with 7:59 left.

Johnsburg kept attacking and McQuiston positioned herself to be the hero once again. She read a cross pass from senior Wynne Oeffling perfectly and the ball landed right at her feet in front of the net. She kicked the ball into the corner of the net to score the game-winner with 6:23 left.

“She’s dangerous,” Johnsburg coach Rob Eastland said. “She’s very deceiving, she’s a deceiving player. But she’s got so much talent in her feet. She’s the sort of girl that can win you a game in a flash of a moment, and she just did that tonight.”

Neither team felt comfortable with the lead. Marian freshman Natalee Henkel gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead with 35:10 left in the first half when she knocked in a rebound. But Johnsburg sophomore Lauren McQuiston answered soon after with a shot at the top of the box that sailed in to tie the match at 1-all with 32:54 left in the first half.

Marian junior Adriana Wrzos gave the Hurricanes their first lead with 29:37 left in the match when she made a fast-break goal. That didn’t last either. Lauren McQuiston got her second goal to tie the match 2-all with 23:31 left.

\mc20 battles with Johnsburg's London Baidinger for control of the ball during the IHSA Class 1A Marengo Regional championship soccer match on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at Marengo High School.

Despite the constant momentum changes, the Skyhawks drew upon their experience from tough matches earlier this season. They knew if they kept battling, good things would eventually come.

“We’re just good as a team of sticking together,” Lauren McQuiston said. “We don’t let each other down. Every game we know the outcome is whatever. We really want to win.”

Both teams needed to adjust to less space to work with because of a narrow pitch. While both teams had plenty of opportunities, Marian coach Art Dixon admitted the Hurricanes needed to change their formation because of less space.

“I saw a great opportunity. Time was counting down so it was now or never.”

—  Mackenzie McQuiston, Johnsburg senior

Despite the obstacles, Dixon was proud of the way the Hurricanes (10-4-1) came together this season to reach the regional final.

“They jelled together,” Dixon said. “No matter what the obstacles, they battled to the end.”

The Skyhawks will play either Regina or Cristo Rey St. Martin in the Class 1A Marian Central Sectional semifinal Saturday.

Regardless of who it plays, Tuesday was a good reminder of what Johnsburg needs to do to have a deep postseason run.

“We just need to stick together as a team,” Mackenzie McQuiston said. “We can do it because we’ve been playing together for so long. This is what we’ve been practicing for.”