Girls soccer: Lincoln-Way Central downs Sandburg 2-0 to win sixth consecutive regional championship

Madi Watt scored early in the second half and Abby Sudkamp scored the dagger late

The Lincoln-Way Central girls soccer team after winning the 2024 regional championship.

JOLIET - Lincoln-Way Central girls soccer coach Sean Fahey said after Friday night’s game against Carl Sandburg that regional championship don’t come easy. He emphasized that they don’t just hand regional trophies out.

At this point, though, it feels like they may as well just give one to Lincoln-Way Central every year because they sure do make it look easy.

After a scoreless first half which saw the Knights consistently put pressure on Sandburg without breaking through, Madi Watt got Lincoln-Way Central on the board early in the second half.

An insurance goal late and a defensive stand added together to result in a 2-0 win for the Knights on the campus of Joliet West. It’s the sixth consecutive year they’ve been crowned regional champs.

“They don’t hand these out,” Fahey said. “You have to earn it. That’s a good Sandburg team that obviously gave us all we could handle. Getting one early in the second was huge.”

The first half was a nail-biter in the sense that neither team could put the ball in the back of the net. Given that the two teams played to a 0-0 draw in early April, that may not have been all that surprising. Still, the Knights (10-5-3) held the clear advantage in time of possession throughout the first 40 minutes and it felt like it was just a matter of when the first goal would come, not if.

Three minutes into the second half, Watt decided it’d been long enough. The junior scored off a corner with a doozy of an assist by Lila Hadley to put the Knights up 1-0.

“I thought we played better the next 10 minutes after that first goal than we did in the first half,” Fahey said. “We tested them here and there in the first half, but once that ball went in the net it was like we were a different team. Moving forward, we need to know that regardless of the score you can always turn it on.”

It was also a relief for the players as Watt acknowledged there was frustration in the first half with how close the Knights kept coming without getting one in.

“It definitely took a lot of the pressure off,” Watt said. “We basically had like 90% of the possession in the first half and we were very bummed that we didn’t get that goal. We would’ve been up instead of tied at halftime. Going into the second half we had the energy the first five minutes and obviously Lila played a great ball into the box. It was very exciting.

The Knights piled opportunity after opportunity the rest of the way before Abby Sudkamp managed to score on a header thanks to another assist by Hadley with 8:13 remaining. Sandburg seemed to turn it on from there, improving its touches on the ball while also creating multiple chances to score. Lincoln-Way Central managed to keep the sheet clean, however, and added another trophy to the case.

“Getting that second one gives you a chance to breathe,” Fahey said. “You’ve got to keep your foot on the gas, though. We kind of relaxed and thought it was it. We saw it too much as a chance to relax and gave them a few chances to get one back, which would’ve made for a very interesting last few minutes. I’m proud of the girls for keeping the shutout.”

Next up, the Knights will take on Lincoln-Way East, which won its regional final over Marist 3-0. Fahey was focused on celebrating the night, but also looked forward to the next matchup regardless of the opponent.

“For some of these girls it’s their fourth regional championship in a row,” Fahey said. “Like I said, they don’t hand them out. I’m excited for the next step. ... We’re all familiar with each other at that stage of the game. I’m excited to see what happens.”

Joliet West sees historic season come to an end

Joliet West saw its season come to an end with a 7-0 loss in its regional championship game against Andrew in the earlier game. It simply wasn’t the Tigers’ day with four starters going down with injuries at one point or another.

Still, this year marked the most successful in program history as the Tigers shattered their single-season win record of 12 victories. The Tigers end the year at 16-8-2 and return a host of players next season.