Girls soccer: Richmond-Burton loses Class 1A supersectional heartbreaker to Willows Academy

Rockets have goal waived off in 69th minute of 2-1 loss

Richmond-Burton's Jordan Otto and Addison Sell console each other as Willows Academy celebrates winning the Class 1A Dominican super-sectional between Willows Academy and Richmond-Burton HS in River Forest on Saturday, May 25, 2024.

RIVER FOREST – Senior forward Layne Frericks was the last Richmond-Burton player to leave the bench.

Her face was liquid, the tears streaming down her face. The emotions cut like a knife.

“This team means everything to me,” she said. “Especially playing with my older sister Reese, and now my younger sister Blake, and my parents and everything they’ve done for me.

“They pushed me to where I am today. I’m crying so much because of what they mean, and what we’ve done these past four years.”

Layne Frericks’ 55th-minute goal breathed new life into the Rockets until a late score by Willows yielded a heartbreaking 2-1 loss Saturday in the Class 1A Dominican University Supersectional.

Richmond-Burton (18-3-1) saw its eight-game winning streak snapped.

The Rockets’ quest for their second state finals appearance in the past three years ended in bittersweet and contested fashion.

The officials ruled a Rachel Mendlik free kick in the 69th minute that Willows keeper Pia Chapello mishandled did not cross the goal line.

“When you get one that gets taken off the board, it’s pretty difficult to overcome that,” Rockets coach Casey DeCaluwe said.

The electrifying game featured teams ranked No. 1 (Richmond-Burton) and No. 5 (Willows) in the Class 1A state rankings of Chicagoland Soccer.

Richmond-Burton's goalkeeper Taylor Labay makes a save during the Class 1A Dominican super-sectional between Willows Academy and Richmond-Burton HS in River Forest on Saturday, May 25, 2024.

The clash featured scintillating individual performances with the Rockets’ standout forwards Frericks, Rachel Mendlik and midfielders Jordan Otto and Bri Maldonado going up against Willows’ elite midfielder Veronica Presberg.

Presberg has 32 goals and 25 assists.

She scored off a rebound of her own missed penalty kick that was initially blocked by Rockets keeper Taylor Labay in the 46th minute.

Presberg assisted the game winner by Julia Lechner off a corner kick in the 66th minute.

Richmond-Burton beat Willows in one-sided games in each of the past two seasons.

“The bigger pitch wasn’t that great for us,” DeCaluwe said. “We were a little slower to balls, and we challenged the girls at halftime to do a better job with the 50/50 balls.

“We just gave up too many corner kicks. They’re dangerous. On the last one, we easily could have gotten that ball out. We didn’t, and that ball ended up in the back of the net.”

Off the first Willows score, Frericks created the equalizer by finishing inside the box off a corner kick from senior midfielder Maldonado.

Frericks and Otto each created good looks in the closing moments. The Rockets could not generate the necessary second touch or follow up.

The nine seniors went out with style and pride, reflecting on an extraordinary four-year run in the aftermath of the canceled pandemic season the year before.

Richmond-Burton posted a 73-13-4 record and captured four consecutive sectional championships, punctuated by its fourth-place state finish two years ago.

Another senior standout, Labay, was fantastic with eight saves.

“We all love each other so much, and we just work so hard together as a team,” senior center back Ember Demers said. “We all played our hardest today. We played like it was going to be our last game, no matter what. We left it all on the field and gave it everything we had.”

If the moment was raw and emotionally devastating for the seniors, the game provided a look into the highly promising future.

Two freshman forwards, Maddie Seyller and Abby Leslie, showed tremendous promise at the top of the attack.

Two next generation players, sophomore defender Blake Frericks and sophomore midfielder Nicole Mendlik, are also talents to watch.

The day belonged to the seniors, even in heartbreak.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done today, but they have set a standard at Richmond-Burton soccer that future classes and younger kids can work up to, and know they are a part of,” DeCaluwe said.

Fittingly, Layne Frericks was accorded the last word.

“I wouldn’t change anything,” she said.

Willows' Julia Lechner (11) fights for the ball against Richmond-Burton's Layne Frericks (19) during the Class 1A Dominican super-sectional between Willows Academy and Richmond-Burton HS in River Forest on Saturday, May 25, 2024.
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