Martinez's two late goals lift Chargers

Martinez's two late goals lift Chargers

NORMAL — Whether he believed what he was saying or not, Centennial girls' soccer coach Hsiung Marler had a simple message for his team at halftime of its Class 2A sectional semifinal against Mahomet-Seymour on Wednesday.

"I told them we had them right where we wanted them," Marler said.

Though the Chargers trailed 1-0 after 40 minutes, Marler wasn't just being optimistic. The Bulldogs dominated the first half with the aid of a 20 mph wind at their backs yet managed only to get one shot past goalkeeper Hope Archer.

Marler was confident his Chargers would deliver in the second half, but that confidence took a hit when his team still trailed by a goal with five minutes remaining.

"I was thinking we needed another 10 minutes," Marler said. "If we could just keep playing, I was hoping we would get there sooner or later."

Turns out they didn't need any more time, just Katelynn Martinez. Martinez scored with just under five minutes remaining on a pass from Grace Ayodele to even the match. Two minutes later, Martinez stole the ball from a Mahomet-Seymour player and turned that into a goal, sending the Chargers to Friday's sectional title game against Normal U-High with a 2-1 win.

"In my head, I said 'I believe, I know we've got this game,' " Martinez said. "I knew we didn't really look too good in the second half, but we pulled it through. We showed up when we needed to."

The Bulldogs (15-3-1) had chances in the second half, but a stout Centennial defense and some nifty saves by Archer kept M-S off the board.

"Grace and Katelynn have been great all year, Meaghan McLennand at center-mid and Haley Hollern made stop after stop on defense," Marler said. "Even when we took out a defender, (Hollern) won header after header. Today our mini-MVP game trophy went to Katelynn for her goals and Haley for the stops. Haley was terrific."

Mahomet-Seymour, which set a school record for wins this season, scored with three minutes left in the first half when Morgan Paintner converted a perfect crossing pass from Sarah VanWingerden into a goal.

"It's a tough way to end it. The thing is we knew what was coming at us. That's exactly what we practiced for," coach Joey Gruner said. "We knew (Martinez) was a phenomenal player. We knew how she plays, and that stuff at the end, I've seen her do many times, and we did everything we could; we just couldn't pull it out at the end."

Centennial (13-8-3) will look to win a second straight sectional Friday. For seniors Annie Regan, McLennand and Ayodele, who graduated Tuesday, the opportunity to represent their school at least one more time was a motivating factor late in the match.

"I give a lot of credit to my teammates. I wasn't having my best game, but they stuck in it and gave us a shot," Ayodele said. "The fact that they gave us a shot at another sectional championship means a lot."

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