Girls soccer: Crystal Lake Central rolls past Wauconda for third straight regional title

Senior Brooklynn Carlson scores hat trick in victory

Crystal Lake Central players celebrate their win over Wauconda in the IHSA Class 2A Grayslake North Regional championship soccer match on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Grayslake North High School.

GRAYSLAKE – For a moment Friday evening, Crystal Lake Central broke from its business-like approach to the postseason to enjoy the moment.

Yes, the Tigers’ focus remained on returning to state for a second straight season. But they also took a few minutes to appreciate what they had accomplished after beating Wauconda 6-0 to win the Class 2A Grayslake North Regional title.

Central won its third straight regional crown, the fifth in program history.

“It feels great every single time,” Central senior Brooklynn Carlson said. “We know that it’s a long way to state, so each game [we’re] winning, it’s a good feeling knowing that we’re just going to keep working every day and hopefully winning.”

The 6-0 score didn’t mean it came easy for Central (18-2-2). The Bulldogs created two close free kick opportunities in the first 10 minutes of the match to put the Tigers on their toes.

Central built off its defensive momentum from senior goalkeeper Addison Cleary and the backline to offense. Senior Jillian Mueller pushed the ball up the pitch and found Carlson streaking toward the net. Once Carlson’s first touch didn’t go in, she knocked in the rebound to give Central a 1-0 lead with 29:04 left in the first half.

Both teams exchanged solid attempts on goal for the rest of the first half until the end. Senior Olivia Anderson found space on the outside and got the ball in with a cross pass that Carlson knocked in to get a 2-0 lead with 1:20 left before halftime.

“She just works her tail off all over the field,” Central coach Sarak Fack said. “Anytime she makes those runs, wide or overlapping our forward, she’s extremely dangerous.”

Central’s aggressive style got to Wauconda in the second half. The Tigers have made it their trademark to win most 50-50 balls and constantly pressure opponents. They finally broke through when Carlson earned a hat trick with 12:08 left in the match before Anderson, freshman Jordin Gaunaurd and freshman Ava Knapp all scored in the final 10 minutes.

The Tigers put 13 shots on goals while Cleary made five saves in net to earn Central’s ninth shutout of the season, the second in the postseason.

Anderson credited Cleary and the Tigers’ backline for helping Central escape an early deficit.

Crystal Lake Central's Olivia Anderson takes  penalty kick during the IHSA Class 2A Grayslake North Regional championship soccer match against Wauconda on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Grayslake North High School.

“We have a really strong backline and we have a really reliable keeper that helps us know what to do on those free kicks,” Anderson said. “She saved our butts on a few times.”

Wauconda coach Beau Shogren said the Bulldogs (12-7-1) ran into a team that seems destined for a state run. He said the Tigers’ aggression became too much to keep up with toward the end of the match, especially since Central has a deep bench.

Despite the loss, Shogren was proud of his young team for taking a step in the right direction this season.

“We ran into a team that’s ready to go,” Shogren said. “I think our team is ready to take the next step next year.”

Central will continue its postseason run with a Class 2A Deerfield Sectional semifinal matchup against Lake Forest on Wednesday. While the Tigers cherished what they accomplished Friday night, there’s more business left left to be done.

“Right now it’s really sweet,” Anderson said. “But we know we have more business to take care of.”

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