Girls soccer: Lockport unlocks Lincoln-Way East defensive front

Porters net 3 goals against defense that hadn’t allowed any before Windy City Classic final

The Lockport girls soccer team poses with its freshly won Windy City Classic championship trophy claimed Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Burbank.

BURBANK – Something had to give.

The Lockport girls soccer team scored 18 goals in its first four games. On the other side, Lincoln-Way East gave up none.

But when the two local powers met for the championship of the Reavis Windy City Ram Soccer Classic it was the Porters’ offense that dominated in a 3-0 victory Thursday evening.

It was the first time Lockport (5-0) won the tournament title on the girls’ side. Coming off their best season in school history, with a 21-3-1 record and a regional title, the Porters could be even better this season.

“This team just has a different edge to it,” Lockport coach Todd Elkei said. “You can’t talk about just one player. We have kids that play high-level club and ball and play at different positions for us. But everyone is doing their job and we were able to possess the ball like we did.”

The Porters last All-American Bella Diorio, who had 41 goals last year, but they brought back most of last year’s team. Lockport had three players score in the title game and dominated possession of the ball.

“We’ve got the chemistry,” Lockport senior defender Emma Czech said. “It’s just us all being back together, we feel we are unstoppable. Our speed out there is insane.”

Czech, a center back defender, who is in her second season playing for the Porters, scored their first goal. That came on a restart from the top of the box with 26:34 left in the first half.

“I knew I was going to get it,” Czech said of her goal. “I feel that it brought us the energy. It was my second goal of the season after having none last year. I love playing for the school, it feels great.”

In a 2-1 overtime victory over Glenbrook South last Saturday, Czech scored her first goal in overtime for the game-winner.

There was nothing close to overtime in the championship game. The Griffins did have two good opportunities shortly after Czech’s tally. Both were by senior forward Cami Butler but the close-range shots sailed high.

Lincoln-Way East (4-1) suffered a couple of injuries in the game. A huge one was the loss of senior defender Thea Gerfen, who went out with a left knee injury eight minutes into the game. She also missed the last month of the season last year with a hip injury.

“That hurt and knocked the wind out of our sails,” Lincoln-Way East coach Mike Murphy said. “She’s such a great player and person. Some of our girls were crying at halftime because they knew it didn’t look good, and she could be out for a long time again.”

The Griffins kept it close in the first half, thanks to nine saves by senior keeper Mattea Arroyo, who kept the score at 1-0. She had 13 saves in the game. But a foul in the box led to a penalty kick by senior midfielder Meghan Mack, which she converted with 29:49 to play in the game.

Shortly after that, junior midfielder Kara Waishwell also went down with an injury for the Griffins and didn’t return.

Lockport capped the scoring on a goal from junior forward Ava Kozak off an assist by senior midfield Kaylin Klutcharch with 26:28 to play.

This is Kozak’s first season playing for the high school after just playing club for Inter to start. She and the Porters are happy to have her, as she now has eight goals on the season, including a hat trick in a 4-1 semifinal win over Lincoln-Way West.

“We’re working really hard, and this feels great,” Kozak said. “It’s not just me, it’s all my teammates setting me up for the goals. I wanted to experience playing for the high school. It’s really fun.”

Junior midfielder Ellie Feigl had the lone Lincoln-Way East shot on goal, with 6:55 to play in the game. It was saved by junior keeper Liz Rock.

“Give Lockport credit, they are the better team and are very, very good,” Murphy said. “They’re physical and fast. I believe they are on the same level as O’Fallon last year. They are the best I’ve seen in this area in a long time. They are that good.”

“We’ve just got to keep playing at a high level,” Elkei said. “This is just a fun group to be around. We just have to keep working, keep building.”