Latest defeat doesn't sour M-S' season

Latest defeat doesn't sour M-S' season

NORMAL — Sarah VanWingerden remembers the preseason talk among her Mahomet-Seymour girls’ soccer teammates.

“Everyone understood from Day 1 we wanted to do new things this year,” the senior all-stater said.

The mission was accomplished so well that even a season-ending 4-2 loss Friday night in the Class 2A sectional finals to Normal West didn’t dampen the spirits.

“It was my last career game with Mahomet, but it was hard to look at it that way because I was so glad with how we played,” senior Catherine McHale said.

The Bulldogs (16-5), who broke their season record for wins, scored first on a corner kick by McHale against the powerhouse Wildcats (26-1), who had shut out M-S in a regular season match. After Normal built a 2-1 lead at halftime, VanWingerden’s second-half penalty kick created a 2-2 tie.

“It was fun to see them shake a little bit,” McHale said.

Teams rarely reach perfection, but VanWingerden said, “We had an almost-perfect warmup; one of the best we’ve ever had.”

That spark carried over into the match.

“This is one of the best games we’ve played,” M-S coach Joey Gruner said. “I look at how they played (Friday) and don’t know that they could have done anything more. One of the goals was to have them feel pressure, and we took that into the second half.”

What’s rewarding, VanWingerden added, is the team’s camaraderie.

“Almost everyone is best friends,” she said. “The chemistry helped us with the great things we achieved.”

M-S finishes the season as one of the state’s final 16 Class 2A teams.

“I can’t believe the things we’ve done,” VanWingerden said, “but it has been a process. We represented the school and what we stand for.”