NAPERVILLE – Richmond-Burton saw the program it wants to become Saturday night.
The Rockets played their first state title match when they took on Quincy Notre Dame, a team that has won five state titles since 2010, in the Class 1A State Championship at North Central College in Naperville.
Richmond-Burton competed like a perennial contender, but the Raiders used their experience to score with just more than two minutes left in the match to win the state title, 1-0.
[ Photos: Richmond-Burton vs. Quincy Notre Dame in 1A championship ]
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group,” R-B coach Casey DeCaluwe said. “It certainly wasn’t a lack of effort or fight, we weren’t out-matched in this match at all, so while I know it stings, we can get back here, and I know we can get on the other end of it.”
The two teams battled for much of the match and exchanged opportunities, but the Raiders (23-3-3) capitalized on their best shot to win the title. Notre Dame advanced the ball in 25 yards from the Rockets’ goal on a throw-in and Annie Eaton brought the ball in to the center of the field, where she found a streaking Avery Keck.
Keck gained possession of the ball and shot it 15 yards out from goal, the ball sailing just over Rockets goalkeeper Taylor Labay’s arms with 2:08 left in the match.
The R-B (23-2-1) defense had been strong for much of the match before the goal. The Raiders had three shots on goal and six corner kicks, and the Rockets defense stopped all those opportunities, including a shot that hit the crossbar with 10 minutes left in the match.
“I thought we played one of our best soccer games, and we matched up really well with that team,” Rockets defender Maddie Havlicek said. “It was unfortunate that they got a shot at the end.”
The Rockets had plenty of opportunities to score, but each time the Raiders found a way to make a save. Jordan Otto had R-B’s best chance with 13 minutes left in the match when she took a ball and shot it from 25 yards from the Raiders’ net, but Aly Young made the save to keep the match scoreless.
R-B finished the match with five corner kicks and four shots on goal, but Notre Dame goalkeepers Young and Addison Van Hecke handed the Rockets their first shutout of the season.
“I thought we had positive attacks, we got the ball out wide, we were dangerous, unfortunately we couldn’t find the back of the net,” DeCaluwe said. “It’s rare for us, but at halftime we kept preaching to get one. We didn’t get there.”
The Rockets hope Saturday’s loss will help them become a perennial contender for a state title like the Raiders. R-B used a last-minute loss in the supersectional round last season as motivation all year to help the team reach its first title match.
That motivation only grew as the Rockets watched the Raiders celebrate their sixth state title, something they hope they’ll be doing this time next year.
“Next year we’re going to come back even harder than we did this year because last year was supersectional, this year is the state championship,” Otto said. “We know what it’s like now, we know the pressure, we know the hard work and everything. I know we’ll be ready for next year.”