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Anna Casmere scores twice for Benet in second half at state

Three years ago, Anna Casmere watched from the stands at North Central College as her older sister Abby led Benet to his first state title in girls soccer.

Abby paced the Redwings that season in scoring with 20 goals. She assisted on Jaimee Cibulka’s overtime goal for a 2-1 victory over Wauconda in the state championship game.

That was on Anna’s mind during Friday’s Class 2A state semifinals in Naperville.

“I had to keep the Casmere tradition alive,” she said. “It is such an accomplishment making it this far. I know how hard she worked after seeing it all.

“I just knew I could do it, too.”

Indeed, she did.

Casmere scored the tying and winning goals in the second half as the Redwings rallied for a pulsating 3-2 victory over Deerfield in their first state appearance since the 2019 title.

Benet (22-4) will play defending champion Troy Triad (24-1) at 1 pm Saturday in the state championship game.

“Anna has been snakebit all year as far as scoring goals, so she was due,” Benet coach Gerard Oconer said. “She is dangerous. She creates lots of opportunities.

“She just hasn’t been able to score as much as she’d like in the regular season. But once the state playoffs came around, she’s been money for us.”

Casmere, a junior forward, came into the game as Benet’s fifth-leading scorer with seven goals and seven assists.

But with Deerfield intent on shutting down Lewis-bound star Mariana Pinto, somebody else had to step up to finish off what appeared would be an easy win after senior midfielder Katie Lewellyan scored on a breakaway just 60 seconds into the first half.

Sophomore midfielder Emily Fox converted twice in the first half to give Deerfield (22-4-2) a surprising 2-1 halftime lead.

Oconer wasn’t especially worried.

“We just knew that once we got to the second half, as long as we keep doing what we usually do and don’t panic, we usually wear teams down,” Oconer said. “We keep pushing and pushing and creating enough opportunities.”

One of those opportunities came shortly after freshman forward Eleanor Mahan entered off the bench. Mahan doesn’t play a lot of minutes but makes the most of the ones she does.

Mahan did it again, slithering a cross from the left side of the box past a Deerfield defender to Casmere, who redirected a shot inside the right post to force a 2-2 tie with 21:39 to go.

“It was an amazing assist,” Casmere said. “It just went through everyone, and I happened to be there at the right time.”

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For Mahan, it was a chance to help her older teammates reach their goal.

“I came in and knew we were down, and I know everybody has worked so hard,” Mahan said. “I was going to do anything I possibly could to help us get one step further.

“The coaches have told us all season one of the biggest differences between us and other teams is our starters are amazing, but we have so many people on the bench that can come in and work hard. I think that’s what really makes us special. It’s gotten us this far.”

Casmere’s second goal traveled the proverbial extra mile.

She launched a 30-yard shot from the right wing and watched the ball sail over the head of Deerfield goalkeeper Lauren Gottlieb and just under the crossbar and inside the left post with 8:18 remaining.

“To be honest, I was praying ‘please go in, please go in,'” Casmere said. “I was very tired and I knew it was now or never, so I just hit it. I’m really glad it went in.”

Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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