CHAMPAIGN — A game that started under sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s ended with players from Centennial and Sacred Heart-Griffin shaking hands in a gym after the Chargers were awarded a 2-0 win in a Class 2A sectional semifinal despite playing one half of a match.
Dagny Olson scored unassisted 80 seconds into the match and added another unassisted tally late in the half before the dark clouds and lightning forced players inside for what would be a three-hour weather delay. At about 9 p.m., officials called it off.
"I couldn't imagine a worse way to end your season than to sit in a gym for (three) hours and realizing that you're not gonna get a chance to play," Centennial coach Hsiung Marler said. "That's the toughest thing in the world. His girls have finals tomorrow, and they're a great team."
For those wondering why the Cyclones didn't concede hours earlier, be reminded that this is the same team that came from behind in the sectional semifinal nearly a year ago to end the Chargers' season.
"Last year we scored against them early and we let down," Marler said. "The girls tonight, they were nervous. They know this was a good team, a team that knocked us out last year."
It's become custom for the Chargers (15-4-2) to score early in the postseason. They jumped on Decatur MacArthur early in the opening minutes en route to a 9-0 win in the regional semifinal and scored in the second minute of a 4-0 win against Urbana in the final.
It's also been custom for Marler to downplay the importance of scoring early, but after Wednesday's weather-shortened affair he might be willing to change his tune.
"Yeah, I guess it worked out a little bit for us tonight," he said. "I think that goal by Dagny early in the game really just took the weight of the world off their shoulders."
Olson, the reigning News-Gazette Area Player of the Year, appears healthy and shows no signs of the ankle injury that sidelined her for a month earlier this season. Marler will tell anyone who's interested that the sophomore is as dangerous in a one-on-one situation as there is in the area. Olson had a pair of one-on-one opportunities and delivered on each.
"In practice, lately to make sure the competition is a little tougher, some of the other coaches and I mix in with some of the players and she'll light me up," Marler said. "She's real good."
The Chargers will play Mattoon or Normal U-High in Saturday's sectional final. The Green Wave and Pioneers originally were scheduled to play Wednesday after the Chargers and Cyclones played, but that match was postponed until Thursday.