NAPERVILLE — Casey DeCaluwe challenged his team after Richmond-Burton played its worst half of soccer in its most important match of the season.
DeCaluwe thought his team played flat against Montini in the first half of their Class 1A state semifinal match on Friday and wanted the Rockets to come out more aggressive in the second half.
His players didn’t wait to respond, scoring a goal off a scramble in front of the net less than two minutes into the second half. The goal was all Richmond-Burton needed in a 1-0 win, sending the Rockets to the title game for the first time in program history.
Richmond-Burton will play Quincy Notre Dame at 5 p.m. Saturday at North Central College in Naperville.
“We said you have to be hungry, it doesn’t matter how it goes in, we’ve got to find a way to get a toe on it, and they did,” DeCaluwe said. “They didn’t stop on the scramble and we found the back of the net.”
[ Photos: Montini, Richmond-Burton meet in IHSA Class 1A girls state soccer semifinal ]
The Rockets (23-1-1) responded after missing seven corner kick chances in the first half and picked up the pace to start the second. R-B advanced the ball outside the Montini box before Reese Frericks earned a free kick on a foul.
Madison Havlicek sent the ball in 18 yards from outside of the box where players from both teams scrambled to gain control of the ball. Frericks and Jordan Otto deflected the ball off each other before Otto kicked her toe out to knock in the goal with 38:57 left in the match.
“It was great teamwork,” Otto said. “All talk and communication. I’m just so very proud of my team.”
The Broncos (13-5-1) became more aggressive after the Rockets’ goal and pushed the ball up. Montini earned four corner kicks in the second half and nearly scored on Liliana Cruz’s shot with 10:16 left, but Rockets goalkeeper Taylor Labay stopped the shot and secured the rebound.
Labay finished the match with five saves and earned her fourth shutout of the postseason. Defenders Ember Demers and Havlicek stopped the Broncos forwards from getting any fast break chances, which slowed down the match.
“Our whole backline, central midfield took control of business,” DeCaluwe said. “I was proud of them as a group.”
Montini’s freshman defender Peyton Farrell led a defensive front that stopped the Rockets’ top goal scorers Reese and Layne Frericks. She out-ran all of R-B’s attackers, which stopped the Rockets from generating many shots, but ultimately a goal off of a set piece hurt for coach Kathryn Perry.
The Broncos qualified for their first state final in program history and Perry wasn’t only proud of the team for competing this weekend but also what it means for the program’s future.
“It’s disappointing but I’m proud of the girls for the fight they put up,” Perry said. “This is new territory for us and we start six freshmen. The fact that we’re here speaks for what the future is going to look like. Hopefully them getting a taste of what this looks like helps us in the future.”
Montini will play in the third-place match against Normal University at 3 p.m. Saturday.
R-B entered the season with the goal of making it to the state finals tournament. Now that the Rockets are one win away from making program history by either winning a state title or earning a runner-up trophy, the Rockets’ approach won’t change from what led them to Saturday’s opportunity.
“It’s crazy because it’s one more game, but we know this isn’t the end,” Otto said. “We still have 80 minutes to put in tomorrow, and we’re going to keep our heads up, train harder, talk louder and come up with more of a plan to play our game tomorrow.”