Hohenstein stands tall as Bulldogs advance

Hohenstein stands tall as Bulldogs advance

CHAMPAIGN — The whistle sounded on overtime of the Class 2A Centennial Regional Final with the game tied 1-1, and Meredith Johnson-Monfort had tears in her eyes.

This was the biggest moment of her senior season, and after stuffing her wrapped, swollen ankle into a sock and squeezing her shoe onto her foot, the 2017 News-Gazette Girls' Soccer Player of the Year tried planting her left foot to try to show she could take a penalty kick in the upcoming shootout, she shook her head.

"I can't take one," she told her coaches and teammates.

So Johnson-Monfort, who twisted her ankle with 30 seconds left in overtime, stood on the sideline with her Mahomet-Seymour career on the line, knowing there was nothing more she could do to influence the outcome.

"In my head, I'm thinking, 'This is a bad situation,'" coach Joey Gruner said. "But that's the last thing you want the girls thinking."

Sarah Hohenstein, though, was ready.

The senior goalkeeper saved two penalty kicks and Normal University missed a third to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 shootout win and a third straight regional title.

"We wanted this one so bad," Hohenstein said, "and I kind of gave up that last goal, and I wanted to come back for my team."

Before overtime began, the Mahomet-Seymour bench was sullen.

The Bulldogs looked to be on their way to victory as the seconds wound down, but with eight seconds left, Normal U-High's Cassie Trosino hit a lofting shot from 30 yards out that sailed just out of Hohenstein's reach and into the goal.

"I told them, 'You look like a group of girls who just lost a game, and we haven't lost,'" coach Joey Gruner said. "I said, 'Imagine how we'd feel if we'd just scored to tie the game. You'd be pumped. We've got to go out there and play like the team that's pumped and ready to go or they're going to come and put another quick goal in.'"

Mahomet-Seymour nearly gave itself a cushion multiple times in the first half. Just two minutes in, Johnson-Monfort's shot hit the crossbar. Midway through the half, another shot hit the bar.

Five minutes into the second half, Johnson-Monfort received the ball at the top of the box, turned, beat two defenders and slotted a shot into the lower corner to finally break through and give Mahomet-Seymour a 1-0 lead.

"Their goalie was really good, so it was nice to finally hit the back (of the net)," Johnson-Monfort said.

Johnson-Monfort found herself in on goal midway through the second half of overtime, but her shot was saved, and neither team broke through.

Whether the Bulldogs' star will be back for Tuesday's sectional semifinal remains to be seen. But on Saturday, they showed that they could pull through in difficult situations with their leading scorer on the sideline.

"I knew my teammates would pull through and that they could all make them and we could still win this," Johnson-Monfort said. "We all have the skill. ... We're a family, and we did it."