Chargers come up just short in soccer
NORMAL — Comeback victories are nothing new for this Centennial girls' soccer team, but overcoming a three-goal deficit would be.
That's the situation the Chargers faced Friday at halftime of their Class 2A sectional title match against Normal University High at Normal West High School.
"We've managed to come back from deficits so often this season, people kind of sat around and wondered, 'Can we come back from three goals?' " Centennial coach Hsiung Marler said. "And we nearly did."
With Katelynn Martinez scoring twice, the Chargers trimmed their deficit to a goal and had momentum on their side in the second half.
But the Pioneers would not permit Centennial to get any closer and went on to claim a 4-2 victory that ended the Chargers' postseason run.
"There's never been a season that hasn't ended one game too soon, and a lot of (players) were extremely disappointed," Marler said. "It's tough, but at the same time, people weren't expecting us to win regionals. They weren't expecting us to win our (sectional semifinal) game."
The defeat ended Centennial's five-match winning streak as well as its bid to repeat as sectional champion. The Chargers finished with a 13-9-3 record.
Meanwhile, Normal U-High (16-5-1) advanced to the Normal West Super-Sectional on Tuesday against Lincoln-Way North.
Unlike the low-scoring match the teams played April 10 — when the Pioneers prevailed 1-0 — this one didn't belong to the defenses. Olivia Crockett set the tone with a first-half hat trick.
"The first half was definitely Normal U-High's half," Marler said.
But the Chargers got right back in it during the second half on a pair of goals by Martinez — the first on an assist by Annie Regan and the second unassisted.
"Second half, I thought we came out and lit them up," Marler said. "It might be unusual to think you're down 3-0 but still think you have a great chance to win the game. At a certain point in the second half, that was us."
But Centennial was unable to find the back of the net again as the match wore on.
"We couldn't quite get the type of shots we needed," Marler said. "They weren't quality chances. Their back line bent but didn't break."
When the Pioneers' Marissa Villafuerte scored on a free kick with about two minutes left, it sealed the outcome.
"We just dug too big a hole," Marler said. "We didn't play two halves. But the last 40 minutes, there was a lot to be proud of."