Chargers one win from state soccer

CHAMPAIGN — The Centennial girls' soccer team never expected to thrash Normal U-High 6-0 Saturday in the title match of the Class 2A sectional.

But that score is indicative of how well the Chargers played during a weather-interrupted match: perfectly perfect.

"It very well might be (our best of the season)," Chargers coach Hsiung Marler said. "It's certainly the cleanest, from start to finish. They did everything I asked them to do. They did everything almost perfectly to the game plan."

As a result, what's become a sterling May for Centennial (16-4-2) was extended to the final day of the month. On Tuesday, the Chargers face Troy Triad (19-2-1) in the super-sectional at UI-Springfield. The winner advances to the state semifinals at 1 p.m. Friday in Naperville.

Centennial and Triad each has outscored its four postseason opponents by an aggregate 21-0.

"We're really excited. We think we can go all the way," Centennial forward Grace Ayodele said. "We just have to come out hard like we did this game, and if we play our best game, I think we can get a win."

Saturday featured another quick start for Centennial, which hasn't allowed a goal in May. Katelynn Martinez scored 7:37 into the match for the first of her two goals, and the Chargers had a 3-0 halftime lead after two scores by Dagny Olson.

Olson added two more in the second half, giving her 19 despite playing in 10 games because of an ankle injury.

The Chargers' staunch defense did its usual thing, keeping the heat off keeper Hope Archer.

Centennial and U-High had played to a scoreless draw in April.

"We were actually pretty nervous," defender Haley Hollern said. "I know I was, and our whole defense line was, because of not getting any goals scored on us (this month) and that is a really good accomplishment. We want to keep that."

Triad will offer a stiff test. The Knights are led by Illinois State recruit Rachel Tejada, who has 36 goals and 19 assists.

"It's going to be different," said Marler, who scouted Triad when the Knights knocked off defending 2A state champ Belleville Althoff on Friday. "The Triad fans are nuts. They're really loud and vocal, and I think their players feed off that. Tejada is a Division I player, but we've got some good players, too. I know nobody's heard of us and nobody expected us to get this far."

Still, Marler said he has no intention of rallying his team by playing up its underdog status.

"You play the underdog card when you think everything in the world is against you, and I don't think that," Marler said. "I think they believe right now that they can win.

"We feel polished right now. Literally everything is clicking."

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