Chaos around the goal is common in soccer. As players from both teams fight to win the ball, it is difficult to see exactly what is going on.
And sometimes that goes for the players in the chaos as well.
New Trier Lauren Caldwell isn’t sure which of her teammates put the the ball on net and she doesn’t recall how she got to her foot to the rebound, but all that matters is it happened and the result gave the Trevians a 1-0 advantage in the 96th minute (second overtime).
“I don’t even know (what happened). I kind of blacked out. It was like a toe poke and it went in and it was crazy,” Caldwell said following her team’s victory over Loyola on Tuesday, May 23, in a sectional semifinal at Lazier Field in Evanston.
The Trevians and Ramblers — the sectional’s No. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively — engaged in a high-level soccer stalemate for all 80 minutes of regulation and the first 15 minutes of extra time.
With about four minutes to play in the second overtime, New Trier drew its 10th corner kick of the match to set up the game-winning set.
Anna Paden’s serve first found the head of a leaping Josie Noble, who bouncer was saved but the rebound rattled around near the goal line. Both Nora Westol and Caldwell fought with Ramblers defenders for the loose ball until Caldwell got a toe to it and set it into the back of the net.
Trevs coach Jim Burnside said Caldwell, who had applied pressure to the Ramblers defense all evening, earned that goal.
“I thought Lauren Caldwell deserved a goal,” he said. “She did everything she could to try to get someone a goal or try to get herself a goal and what I love about her is she’s stone cold. (After previous tries), she’s just like, ‘OK, I’m coming right back.’ And eventually she sticks it in.”
While New Trier had the lion’s share of chances on the night, Loyola’s defense stood tall.
Ramblers keeper Ellie Bradley racked up 13 saves, while her back line turned away numerous other Trevians opportunities.
“For us, we really emphasize team defense, so it always starts with our frontrunners. I think we did a nice job of that,” Ramblers coach Shannon Hartinger said. “There was a chess match back and forth. Both teams were solid defensively. (I’m) really proud of our effort defensively. Unfortunately, just gave up a set piece at the end.”
About her keeper, Hartinger added, “Ellie’s obviously a veteran player for us. She’s played three great seasons for us. … She’s a big-time-game player. Some of her best games are when the stakes are the highest. She played phenomenally against Barrington earlier this year and then again tonight. It’s what we expect of her.”
A senior-heavy Loyola squad made a run to the sectional finals in 2022. Reloading for 2023, the Ramblers began the season 3-4-3 amid a difficult schedule.
Over the next 10 games, Loyola went 8-2 — including a penalty-kick loss to state power Barrington — and clinched the top spot in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference with a 4-0 mark.
A big part of that, Hartinger said, was putting the pieces in the right places, especially to orchestrate set pieces.
“Earlier this season, we were still finding our way a bit,” Hartinger said. “After graduating the group that we did, it was finding who the new targets were. Once we established that, we have some very talented players who can put the ball in the mix very well and we scored some really great goals off set pieces throughout the year.”
The young Ramblers — who say goodbye to seniors Berkley Dorsten, Emma Shaffer, Emily Pikarski, Eleanor Goodrich, Ella Couri, Elianna Seeley, Caroline Southwell and Emmy Christopher — will look to build upon this year with potential returners like Bradley, forwards Ellie Vehovsky and Lilanna Ciesla, midfielders Grace Lynch and Mim Fritzsche, and defender Sadie Merriott.
New Trier advances to the sectional championship match at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 26, on Lazier Field in Evanston, where they will take on Lane Tech. The No. 4 Champions bested the sectional’s top seed, Evanston, 1-0 on Tuesday.
The Trevians are looking to return to familiar territory. Prior to last season, when they were ousted in the sectional semis, New Trier had won seven straight sectional titles from 2014-’21 (no season in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic), advancing to the state finals in six of those seasons.
The Trevians topped Lane Tech 3-2 on the road on April 12. The Champions have not lost since that match, going 12-0-1. New Trier is also on a run, winning its past nine matches. Burnside said after various injuries during the regular season, his team is at full strength — and playing like it.
Caldwell agreed and said the Trevs are ready for Friday’s challenge.
“I feel like we’re peaking right now, which is exactly where we want to be,” the senior said. “We just have to focus on (Lane Tech). Take it one game at a time and we’re ready to win.”