CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Central put five shots over the crossbar or wide of the goal in the first five minutes of Tuesday's Class 2A Crystal Lake South Regional semifinal, but the Tigers would have plenty of more scoring chances.
They didn't miss many.
Stephanie Hayes opened the scoring for the Tigers in the 18th minute with a shot from about 25 yards out that went over the outstretched arms of Richmond-Burton's Lindsy Restis. A couple of minutes later, Ellie Montford tacked on a second goal, heading in a corner kick from Madie Rokos.
The Tigers played the majority of the first half on the Rockets' side of the field, controlling possession and taking nine corner kicks, and ended the game with 19 shots on goal. Central cruised to a 6-0 victory, putting the Tigers (13-6-1) into Friday's championship game.
Central will face the winner of Wednesday's semifinal between Crystal Lake South and Woodstock. The Tigers lost to South, 1-0, in overtime this season, but did not face the Blue Streaks.
The Gators were on the sideline watching the Tigers with a chance of meeting them one more time.
Central took notice.
"We just wanted to make an impression," said freshman forward Emma Bolanowski, who had two goals and an assist in the victory. "I know we had a rival team watching. We wanted to come out of the gates strong. I know I missed a couple early, but my teammates put the ball in the right places, and I was lucky enough to put them in."
In the 35th minute, Bolanowski assisted Kiara Widdowson, who one-timed the ball past Restis to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead at half. Bolanowski scored the first two goals of the second half. Her first was assisted by Grace Brickey in the 45th minute. Her second was a hard, low shot that deflected off Restis' arm before hitting the post and trickling in.
Grace Rokos added the Tigers' final goal in the 55th minute with a rocket past Restis from about 20 yards out.
"It was the whole team finding feet and making some good runs off the ball," Tigers coach Sarah Fack said. "It's always good when we're getting the ball in the back of the net. It's fun to see. We just need to make sure not to take any games for granted. We got one win today, and hopefully we can keep it going."
Fack lauded the effort of central midfielder Erica Novy, who assisted Grace Rokos on the Tigers' last goal and "helps control the pace and tempo on both sides of the ball," the second-year coach said.
Central will go for its first regional title since 2009.
"It's exciting to play for a regional (title)," Novy said. "It would be a really big win, but just being in a final is a real big confidence boost for us."
Rockets coach Casey DeCaluwe praised his six seniors, including Restis, who made 13 saves.
"For those seniors, they kept it together," DeCaluwe said. "They knew what we were up against. I think you can tell from the entire group, they put it in their mind that they didn't want them to get to seven (goals). They didn't want them cutting time in half. They played with pride. And for that, I thank them for everything."
STAR OF THE GAME
Crystal Lake Central, fr., F
Bolanowski assisted Kiara Widdowson on a goal to end the first half and recorded the first two goals of the second half in the Tigers' 6-0 win over Richmond-Burton.
19: Shots on goal by Crystal Lake Central
AND ANOTHER THING...
Richmond-Burton's string of three consecutive regional titles came to an end with Tuesday's loss. The Rockets won regional and sectional titles in 2015 (Class 1A), and regional titles in 2016 (2A) and 2017 (1A).
Class 2A Crystal Lake South Regional
Crystal Lake Central 6, Richmond-Burton 0
Richmond-Burton 0 0 – 0
Crystal Lake Central 3 3 – 6
CLC–Montford (M. Rokos), 20th
CLC–Widdowson (Bolanowski), 35th
CLC–Bolanowski (Brickey), 45th
CLC–G. Rokos (Novy), 55th