Chargers' future bright despite result
SPRINGFIELD — On the final day of May, Centennial allowed its first goal of the month.
It was one more than it could afford.
The Chargers' season ended Tuesday with a 3-0 loss to Troy Triad in the Class 2A Springfield Super-sectional. The Knights scored twice in a span of one minute, 17 seconds in the first half, unfamiliar territory for a Chargers team that hadn't surrendered a goal since April.
"During the playoffs, we didn't have that against us and I think it shocked us for a minute," Chargers forward Katelynn Martinez said.
There's hardly shame in falling to Triad (20-2-1), which has outscored its five postseason opponents — which includes reigning Class 2A state champ Belleville Althoff — by a combined 24-0.
The pressure applied by the Knights created a character change in the Chargers. Trailing against a quality opponent, the Chargers appeared to press and lost their foundation of teamwork.
"I think part of the time we forgot who we were. We lost our identity," Centennial coach Hsiung Marler said. "We're a team. We pass, we move, we cover, we shift. Tonight we spent a little bit of time playing as individuals. We left some big gaps because we didn't cover each other. That makes us very vulnerable."
Centennial stemmed the flow early, benefitting when the Knights hit a post in the 12th minute. Keeper Hope Archer made a brilliant diving save on a Rachel Tejada header 11 minutes later.
But the Knights' flurry found success with 8:37 left in the first half when Illinois State recruit Tejada converted a Brianne Schmitt corner kick. Tejada pounced after the ball hit the ground once, popping a liner into the net behind Archer.
Exactly 77 seconds later, Alyssa Patterson worked free just outside the box and made it 2-0.
"After they scored the first goal, all of a sudden we felt urgency and we felt it the wrong way," Marler said. "All of a sudden, now it's 'I have to do this.' We didn't lose the trust of our teammates, we just put a little too much weight on our shoulders individually instead of letting the team do it."
Triad made it 3-0 early in the second half on Tejada's second goal, her 38th of the season.
"They were a good team. They pass the ball very well," Martinez said. "At every position they were just a tad bit better than us. But I think we could have been a lot better."
The Chargers (16-5-2) endured the sting of defeat, but they probably already are thinking of making a return trip. That's because nine starters are back in 2012, including top scorers Martinez, Grace Ayodele and Dagny Olson.
"The season never ends on time," Marler said. "You always want to go a little further. This has been a really special journey. We didn't have many players coming back. We didn't know what we were going to have. Next year we do.
"This kind of lets them know where they want to be, and what we need to accomplish. We're going to be really sad for a couple of days and then start thinking about next year and how we can get better."
Added Martinez: "I feel like we'll do even better. We'll think about this next year."