Girls soccer: Richmond-Burton wins Kishwaukee River Conference Tournament title in penalty kicks

Goalkeeper Taylor Labay makes final 2 stops to secure title

Richmond-Burton's Taylor Labay celebrates with her teammates after winning the Kishwaukee River Conference Girls Soccer Tournament Championship Match Wednesday, May 3, 2023, at Richmond-Burton High School.

RICHMOND – Taylor Labay kept repeating the same thing in her mind as she stood in goal waiting for Johnsburg to attempt its penalty kicks Wednesday night.

“You’ve got this,” she thought. “You’ve saved them before.”

Richmond-Burton’s goalkeeper had done it before, only two nights earlier when she made stops to help the Rockets advance to the Kishwaukee River Conference Tournament championship. Now here she was once again, with the opportunity to play the hero.

Labay turned away the last two chances she faced, leading the Rockets to a 2-1 win on penalty kicks and a KRC Tournament title.

“It was really exciting,” Labay said. “It was a lot of momentum coming through my body. It was just amazing.”

The Rockets (13-4, 7-0) and Skyhawks battled to a 1-1 draw after regulation after R-B controlled much of the second half.

In the penalty kick shootout, Reese Frericks missed, but Margaret Slove, Bri Maldonado and Layne Frericks each converted for R-B.

Labay stopped the first shot she faced from Mackenzie McQuiston, but Natalie Oeffling scored to even the shootout 1-1. Labay focused on the Skyhawks’ hips and watched the ball, and she stopped Elaina Moss’ and Elizabeth Smith’s chances to secure the tournament title.

“It was great to see her play that role, see her be the savior,” Rockets coach Casey DeCaluwe said. “A lot of times we’re scoring goals and Taylor is enjoying being back there, but today she was called upon, and she stepped up and she came up huge. It’s great confidence heading into a postseason run.”

The Rockets had to play comeback after allowing a goal in the opening moments. Reese Frericks tied the match at 1 with 36:19 left in the first half, then R-B dominated possession for much of the remainder of the match but couldn’t score. The Rockets played their first match after midfielder Jordan Otto tore her ACL in Monday’s semifinal against Woodstock, and it took some time for the offense to get used to playing without her.

“It was really exciting. It was a lot of momentum coming through my body. It was just amazing.”

—  Taylor Labay, Richmond-Burton goalkeeper

DeCaluwe thought his team created good runs and looks but just couldn’t score.

“We got a lot of opportunities, and some days it doesn’t find the back of the net,” DeCaluwe said. “We’ve known that a couple of times and Taylor stepped up huge.”

Johnsburg (8-4-1, 6-3) hit the ground running when Smith scored with 39:43 left in the first half on a ball that bounced in off Labay. The Skyhawks also were missing a key player after Melaina Huemann tore her ACL in their semifinal Monday.

While Skyhawks coach Rob Eastland would’ve been happy with a win, he was proud of how his team regrouped after losing to the Rockets 5-0 earlier in the season.

“I think we did everything we wanted to do,” Eastland said. “I’m really proud of my girls. I look around the field, and we’re freshmen against seniors half the places. I think we’re winning a lot of battles. The future is bright.”

The Skyhawks will start the IHSA playoffs Tuesday against either Elgin Academy or Harvest Christian in the Class 1A Westminster Christian Regional, while the Rockets start the postseason against Schaumburg Christian on Wednesday in the Class 1A Cristo Rey St. Martin Regional.

DeCaluwe has treated the KRC Tournament as something that will prepare his team for the playoff format, and he got exactly what he wanted Wednesday night.

“It doesn’t always have to be pretty. It doesn’t always have to be you go out there and shut a team out,” DeCaluwe said. “You have to go out there and find a way in win those games. The win-or-go-home games is what we needed. It was a great game for us.”