TISKILWA — After starting their season with five straight losses, the Princeton Tigresses soccer team showed its heart and perseverance needed in a winner going 13-5-2 over their next 20 games to advance to the Class 1A Princeton Regional championship Friday.
The marvelous late season play by the Tigresses was halted by the Pioneers from Rock Island Alleman. The Tigresses had no answer for streaky junior forwards Alexandria Serra and Raven Wyatt and the rest of the Pioneers in the 8-1 loss.
“It’s a testament to our character. They’re girls that never gave up and believed in the program and worked in the system and stayed together and stayed positive and that is what they did. Again, they’re just really good girls who love the game of soccer and put forth a solid effort,” PHS coach Ed Young said.
After Wyatt put the first goal of the game on the board with less than three minutes gone in the half, Serra added her first goal from 15 yards out to take a 2-0 lead with 30:07 left to play in the half.
“They’re just making the right runs and fortunately our midfielders are finding them and it causes havoc for the back lines, so, just creative runs,” Alleman coach Randy Bollman said.
Princeton answered three minutes later when sophomore forward Eliza Young sent the ball up the middle of the pitch and found freshman Michaela Mall, who was fouled by the goalkeeper just inside the penalty area.
Coach Ed Young knew exactly who would take the penalty kick and was rewarded for his choice as senior Michelle Kelly slammed one to the right past the Alleman goalkeeper.
“We got the PK. I knew putting Michelle Kelly in there I was about 99.99 percent positive she would put it in the back of the net, so we felt good about that situation,” Young said.
Alleman answered with two goals of their own before the end of the half on two excellent through balls by sophomore midfielder Emily Bollman which found Wyatt behind the Princeton defense to round out the first half hat trick from Wyatt and a 4-1 Pioneer lead going into half.
“I think the girls have grown and matured enough to know that they felt that they had control of the game even with that happening,” Bollman said. “It was a valid PK. They put pressure on us and forced a mistake so I think the girls came back from that extremely well and finished off the game.”
Princeton fizzled in the second half as the relentless offensive attack by the Pioneers forced the Tigresses to play back on their heals and in their own defensive zone for the majority of the second half.
Alleman added four more goals in the second half of the match including three by Serra to give her a four-goal evening and a highlight real goal from sophomore midfielder Katie Johannes who curled in a cross from just outside of the penalty area which found the upper 90 of the opposite post.
“I didn’t feel it was an 8-1 match. I thought we played better than that but the thing is when you play a quality team and have individual mistakes good teams make you pay and that’s what happened,” Young said.
This years crop of seniors set the tone for the young Tigresses squad for next season.
“They have set the stage for how to be competitive, be leaders and be teammates and they’re going to pass that on to these kids,” Young said.
Looking to next season, Young expects a lot of competition for the few spots that will be opening up next year.
“The junior class, again, is nice and strong and it’s going to be competitive. We’re going to have a competitive squad next year there will be cuts,” Young said. “With the numbers coming up and the numbers leaving, there is not the right flux so we’re going to have to have cuts next, but that’s good because it will make us better because of the inter-squad competition.”
Princeton finishes the season with a 13-10-2 record while Alleman takes its 12-5-1 record to semifinal sectional play against Rockford Christian Tuesday at the Genoa-Kingston sectional.
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