CHAMPAIGN — A few minutes into Friday's Class 2A regional championship match against Champaign Central, Centennial's Katelynn Martinez got behind the defense and uncorked a laser of a shot. She missed the goal high, and Central's contingent of fans let Martinez have it.
They should have known better than to fire up the Chargers' emotional leader.
Martinez connected eight minutes into the contest, scored eight minutes into the second half and set up Kieryn Alexander for a chip-shot goal with a minute remaining, leading second-seeded Centennial to a 4-2 win against the top-seeded Maroons.
"They said I (stunk), but my teammates just told me to calm down, and I did need to calm down," Martinez said. "I get emotional, and with a crosstown rival, I take it very serious. I wanted this so bad; it's our home field, and I don't want to lose to them."
Martinez made sure of that and used her wide array of skills in doing so. On her first goal, she raced past the defense to beat the goalkeeper. On the second goal, she outmuscled a defender and delivered a screamer into the back of the net. The assist to Alexander was a combination of speed and power.
"She's so fast, she's always on a breakaway," Centennial coach Hsiung Marler said.
"She's just so explosive, I don't know anybody who's faster than her who's not using wheels."
So impressive was Martinez's effort Friday that she was the first player Central coach Mick Galeski mentioned afterward.
"K-Mart on top for Centennial has been a fantastic player for them. I think she's the best player Centennial has had most of the season," Galeski said. "It's her speed. You can't match that; she's one of the quicker girls we'll play all year. She's a great player."
Grace Ayodele scored the other goal for the Chargers (12-8-3), and Meaghan McLennand provided three assists. It was the second time this month Centennial got the better of its crosstown rival. The Chargers beat the Maroons 3-2 on May 2.
"The first game, I thought we dominated, we just got unlucky. This game, I thought the better team won tonight; I'm not going to lie," Galeski said. "The best team won today, which usually happens in a game like this. The best teams don't always win, but tonight they did."
Maddy Chalifoux scored unassisted late in the first half for Central (14-9-0) to cut the deficit to 2-1, and she added another tally with five minutes left in the match to bring it to 3-2.
"It's good to see some of my girls, Maddy Chalifoux for a freshman stepping up in a game like this is great to see," Galeski said. "I've got a lot of young girls so the inexperience is there."
As the clock expired, Centennial's student section rushed the field to celebrate the program's third consecutive regional title. Marler quickly ushered them back to the sideline.
"I've been on both ends of this, and this isn't pleasant for the other team," he said. "(Central) is a fantastic team, they're great. In a lot of ways they do a lot of things much better than us. This is a tough, emotional day, and they don't need that shoved in their face. There's things you do to show you're a class organization, and I thought having them run on the field, that wasn't it."
Centennial will play Mahomet-Seymour in Wednesday's sectional semifinal at Normal West. M-S beat the Chargers 2-1 on March 29.
"We didn't have all our players then, and hopefully we don't have any new (injuries) today, and we're happy to get a shot at them," Marler said. "We took down a great team tonight, and we'll look forward to playing another great team in the next round."
At Decatur. Mahomet-Seymour defeated Mattoon 6-1 at Eisenhower to win its first regional since 2009. Kayla Thompson scored two goals to go along with an assist, and Sarah Garrow also scored twice to lift the Bulldogs (15-2-1).
"It was a very well-played game, and I was very happy we attacked from a variety of positions," M-S coach Joey Gruner said. "We're focusing on team play, and this was definitely a team win."