Today's Class 2A girls' soccer sectional semifinal at Normal West between Centennial and Mahomet-Seymour is a rematch of a March 29 match the Bulldogs won 2-1. It was so long ago, though, it'll have little — if any — bearing on the outcome of today's tilt.
"That was the first or second week of the season, and both teams have been through a lot and faced challenges, and I think it'll be two different teams," M-S coach Joey Gruner said. "Centennial is a returning sectional champion. They've been there, they know how to win in the postseason and I feel like year after year they tend to bring a different game to the postseason than they do in the regular season."
But this Centennial team is different than the outfit Hsiung Marler has trotted out in recent years. Dagny Olson, the 2010 News-Gazette Area Player of the Year, is playing club soccer and isn't with the Chargers. The 2011 Player of the Year, Chantal Meacham, has been sidelined all season with an injury.
"Everyone kept telling me this wasn't supposed to happen," Marler said. "Last year and some of the other years, we were expected to win. This year, before we even started, people had written us off and said we weren't going to be any good."
The Chargers (12-8-3) have reached this point thanks to the 1-2 punch of Katelynn Martinez and Grace Ayodele. The Bulldogs (15-2-1) rely on a balanced effort where six players have scored at least six goals.
"We have focused a lot on playing as a team and spreading things around because the more we can do that it makes it difficult for a defense to key on single players," Gruner said.