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Article from Senior Night

posted May 19, 2014, 8:50 AM by Aaron Press

By Darryl Mellema

You always know a match is important when the mascot shows up – and there was a costumed Tiger on the sidelines prior to Wheaton-Warrenville South’s regular season finale against West Aurora.

The Tuesday match was also the hosts’ Senior Night and pregame ceremonies honored the five seniors on the squad – Abbey Fuster, Caroline Holmes, Courtney Christensen, Marina Tolczyk and Alex Immekus.

“You want to have the best campaign you can have,” Wheaton-Warrenville South coach Guy Callipari said. “You want them to be able to walk away and know that the campaign that they led was a positive one – and they did everything they could to make that happen.”

Those seniors and the rest of the Wheaton-Warrenville South squad walked off Grange Field for the final competitive time in 2014 with a 2-0 DuPage Valley Conference victory.

“It felt really different walking out for the last time because you want to make it the best time ever,” Immekus said. “It was bittersweet. It was really fun but also really sad. This has been our home field for the last four years and it’s so great to go out with a win and a shutout in the last game.”

The five seniors started against West Aurora, and started the second half as well and all got considerable playing time during their final home match.

“It’s amazing to end our conference with this team and to be able to start,” Christensen said. “There’s so much adrenaline and it’s exciting. It’s bittersweet to be going but I’ve had so many amazing times playing soccer with these girls. I’m excited to go into playoffs with these girls.”

Tuesday’s win was the third straight for the Tigers, who closed the regular season 10-8-1.

“You couldn’t ask for a better result for your final game here,” Fuster said. “I would look at the clock and the time flew by and that’s a reflection of my time here. It’s been an honor to represent my school and to represent my team and hopefully help them out along the way.”

As important as the winning streak, Wheaton-Warrenville South concluded DVC play with a 5-2 record and tied for second behind champion Naperville North. The second place tie is the Tigers best conference finish since the 2010 team tied for the title with Naperville Central.
“It was more than just a game for us,” Holmes said. “It was for second place in the DVC, a chance to keep our winning streak going, to finish above .500 and to play as a team. We had to think of those things and to not think of the win before it happened.”

The team’s next match is Wednesday against Schaumburg, a 6:30 p.m. semifinal contest in the West Chicago Regional. The sectional takes place at Conant, a potential supersectional would be played at Lake Park.
That left the match against the Blackhawks as the last time the Tigers will every play at Grange Field. The seniors were introduced with their parents and had their accomplishments read by stadium announcer Pete Kania, himself a senior who was honored during Senior Night.

“It was definitely sentimental and emotional,” Tolczyk said. “It’s kind of hitting us that it’s our last game and we’re all leaving.”

There are eight sophomores on this year’s team and five freshmen – a considerable number of talented players who will represent the school in coming seasons.

“Over half our team is underclassmen, and that’s exciting,” Fuster said. “I was very nervous of the season. But it’s an arc and it can only go up, and that’s what I see. I see a bunch of girls figuring it out and maturing.”

Callipari said that while this year’s seniors were incredibly important on the field, their off-field accomplishments were even more critical.

“We have a lot of impressionable girls on the team,” he said. “Their first step is directed by the team’s leadership, and it’s got to be a good step forward. We don’t have time to go backward and then bring it back around. These seniors have been inviting, and that’s a critical part of it, making everyone feel a part of the program.”

Wheaton-Warrenville South dominated the match. Yet despite having a wide majority in possession time and holding the ball in West Aurora’s half most of the opening 40 minutes, it took the Tigers nearly 35 minutes to score.

“It’s really incredible how all four years can work together on and off the field,” Tolczyk said. “We all get along so well. It’s nice to see the seniors and the freshmen working so well together, and obviously the sophomores and juniors in-between working too.”

Tolczyk had an early chance to put the Tigers in the lead, but her shot was saved. Minutes later, Tolczyk passed to Christensen, whose shot was deflected and saved.

“We focused really well once game time came,” Tolczyk said. “There was a lot of commotion with the Senior Night awards and the little sisters. But once we got going, we got focused and got business done. That was a nice way to go out.”

Christiansen enjoyed time and space in which to create chances as well.

“My soccer career is ending after this season because I won’t be playing in college,” Christensen said. “I just come out every day loving what I do and that’s what means the most to me. I’ve had the most amazing four years playing soccer here. It’s been such a privilege to have the coaches that I have and to play with all these talented players.”

Those opening exchanges started a pattern that continued throughout the first half – Tigers pressure but a failure to find a goal.

That ended with 5:51 remaining before halftime when  Holmes scored after Erin Madigan drove through the midfield in the left channel. Madigan passed to Holmes open in the right channel, and Holmes sent a shot high into the net.

“We knew going in that we had to keep up the same intensity as we did (Monday),” Holmes said, referring to the Tigers’ Monday victory over Glenbard East. “We really worked hard. It was a big game because it was Senior Night and our last game here and we’re all really close. But it was good to get the win.”

The half finished with two more chances for the Tigers. First Rachel Conrady stabbed a shot just wide and Alexis Jakuszewski had a free kick saved.

The second half progressed much as the first until 19:15 remained and a ball in the penalty area bobbled up and hit a West Aurora player’s hand. The referee awarded a penalty kick, and Jakuszewski converted.

“Sometimes we’re inconsistent, so it was really nice to play (Monday) really well, and then come out tonight and play really, really well and connect the balls and finish on the goals that we need to finish on,” Holmes said.

Immekus moved forward with 5 minutes to play and unleashed a strong shot from the left wing that dipped mightily and forced a save.

“That was so fun, but it didn’t go in,” Immekus said. “It’s been awesome playing here. It’s changed my life. It’s given me all of the friends that I have today. It’s like this mini-community. There’s so much support and so much love. We’re not a clique at all. We’re best friends with each other. We all love each other and hang out outside of soccer with each other.”

Fuster had few strong shots to save, though the Blackhawks were often a threat through Sam O’Brien flip throw-ins. Fuster and her defense remained vigilent to the threat.

“It’s something you always have to take into consideration,” Fuster said. “I’ve played club with (O’Brien) for the past two years. It’s really exciting to see her again, but when she’s not on your team, you’re a little more nervous about those throw-ins.”

In the final minute, Fuster had to make her strongest save of the match from a Katherine Stephens shot.