NAPERVILLE – Lincoln-Way Central knew how complete a team Metea Valley was heading into its Class 3A state semifinal match Friday.
But no matter how much the Knights prepared, the Mustangs’ talent on both ends of the field were too much, as Metea Valley captured a 2-0 win and advanced to it first title match in program history.
“They’re an extremely talented team,” Lincoln-Way Central coach Sean Fahey said. “They’ve got pace everywhere, and they’re technical everywhere. When you’re that athletic and have some flamethrower runners on the outside like that, it’s a tough ask.”
Metea Valley (21-2-1) picked up the pace after the first few minutes of the match and foreshadowed the Mustangs’ first half when they created a strong look seven minutes in that went just too high.
The team kept upping the offensive pressure, and after a failed Lincoln-Way Central (24-2) corner kick, the Metea Valley attacking line pushed the ball up on a fast break with Tyra King shooting and Lucy Burk scoring on a rebound to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead with 26:58 left in the first half.
The Mustangs continued the fast tempo, forcing Knights goalkeeper Alex Hadley to make three straight saves before King knocked in Metea Valley’s second goal off a scramble in front of the net with 14:44 left in the first half.
Metea Valley’s front line had too many weapons and kept pressing high, which was why Lincoln-Way Central’s defense allowed more than one goal for just the second time this season.
“It was really hard to deal with because we still had to get up,” defender Grace Grundhofer said. “We tried to find that out but we couldn’t figure it out because they were pressing so high.”
Lincoln-Way Central finished with two shots on goal and had seven corner kicks in the match.
Fahey thought nerves played a factor in the first 10 minutes for his team. The Knights couldn’t get much going against the Mustangs’ defense and goalkeeper Julia Straub.
Lincoln-Way Central struggled to get a shot on goal in the first half and came away with its first strong shot when Straub saved a shot with 24 minutes left in the match.
Friday was Matea Valley’s fifth shutout of the postseason and 11th of the year. Lincoln-Way Central failed to score a goal for the second time this season, the team’s lone loss until Friday’s semifinal.
“We fought as hard as we could, did as much as we could,”Grundhofer said. “We just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Lincoln-Way Central will have a chance to make history on Saturday and try to earn its first third-place trophy when it plays Evanston (21-3-1) at North Central College at 5 p.m.
Fahey said Saturday will be a great chance to see how his players will respond.
“We get to do it,” Fahey said. “We come out and give our best game tomorrow. Only two teams get to end on a win and we get to be one.”