The line for ice bags was a long one for the Chesterton girls soccer team after losing a physical first-place showdown at Crown Point, 2-1, in overtime.
Adey Avey, Tewabech Seerup and Olivia Virgil all waited in line for a Crown Point athletic trainer to fasten ice packs to different parts of their bodies.
Ice couldn’t help them to ease the pain of losing a close one that if it had gone the other way would have left Chesterton sitting alone atop the DAC standings. Instead, that perch belongs to to the Bulldogs (9-2-1 overall, 5-0 in the DAC).
The best hope for Chesterton (7-4, 4-1) is to regain a share of first place lies with winning a home match against Lake Central this coming Tuesday and hoping that Valparaiso wins a home match against Crown Point the same night.
The Bulldogs dominated possession in the first half against Chesterton and took a 1-0 lead into the intermission on the strength of Ava Hulska’s penalty kick after a Chesterton player was called for a handball in the box.
Looking like a completely different team, a more aggressive one by a long shot, the Trojans dominated possession in the second half and tied the match when Olivia Virgil drilled a free kick into the back of the right side of the net.
The Trojans spent so much energy in a spirited second-half comeback that they were running on fumes late in regulation and in overtime.
This wasn’t the first time that Chesterton played a sluggish first half in a big DAC match. They also did so against Valparaiso, picked it up in the second half and won that one on penalty kicks.
This time the Trojans never made it to penalty kicks because Ellie Prendergast scored 2:19 into the first overtime period and the hosts held onto that advantage through the second overtime period.
At halftime, Chesterton coach Ben Forgey let his players have it with an honest account of their first-half performance and they responded.
“We’ll really get somewhere when we don’t have to make those changes, when we play on the front foot, or give a better account of ourselves in the first half,” Forgey said after the close loss. “It would be great to talk to the kids at halftime and not try to get a reaction, or not try to make adjustments because we’re playing well from the start. The first half we were lucky to be down only 1-0, and the second half we played really well.”
Virgil explained the difference in the halves.
“Obviously, coming out of the half, 1-nil down, you have to have some motivation, some desire to put more on the field than you gave the first half because you need the energy,” Virgil said. “And then the atmosphere always contributes to it. There was such high energy from the crowd and it really boosted everyone.”
Good things eventually tend to happen to soccer teams that dominate possession, and that was the case in each half.
Crown Point’s first half goal was akin to winning a court case on a technicality.
“It’s a handball in today’s rules this year until they change handball rule again. It’s a terrible goal. It’s from nothing, but I told the group at halftime they earned that by being there,” Forgey said. “They had more corner kicks than us, more possessions, more shots, more everything, and for that they deserved something probably, because they were better than us in the first half. Fortunately, the decider was an actual goal.”
The Bulldogs play an extremely physical brand of soccer and the Trojans withstood that well.
“We’ve got tough players,” Forgey said. “Wags (Matt Wagner), who the girls go to in the weight room in our strength and conditioning program at the high school, is great, and we’ve got strong players.”
Forgey praised the job done by the referee.
“In the first half he didn’t score any fouls for us because we didn’t earn any,” Forgey said. “In the second half, we wanted the ball and we were good with the ball and he called the fouls when they chopped us, when their aggression was unfair. It’s going to be physical. That’s the way they play.”
The team that possesses the ball has the better chance of drawing fouls. That team was Crown Point in the first half, Chesterton in the second.
Virgil’s successful free kick, from straight away, came when Avey was fouled, and not gently.
Virgil explained how she goes about free kicks: “I think the most important thing for me is to see where they line up the wall,” Virgil said. “Every time they are going to give you something or they’re going to take something away and every team is different in where they put that wall, so my first job is to stand behind the ball, see what options I have, and then from there I decide where I want to place it.”
Virgil placed it so well that the goalkeeper didn’t have a chance and suddenly the match that seemed so one-sided in Crown Point’s favor in the first half was even until it wasn’t.
“You can’t play the second half of games and expect to win against the ninth-ranked team in the state,” Forgey said. “You just can’t get away with it.”
After the clock expired on the second overtime, the Bulldogs celebrated wildly and sprinted across the pitch to thank their fans.
“If you saw the celebration of the Crown Point team after the game, you saw what it means to them to beat a Chesterton team that everyone knows is very good,” Forgey said. “They lost their minds like it was a postseason sectional final because it is an accomplishment to beat us. In the first half, we beat ourselves by not showing up. What can you do?”
About all you can do is beat Lake Central (7-2-2 overall, 4-1 in the DAC) this coming Tuesday night and hope that Valpo (4-6, 4-1) upsets Crown Point.