Second defender Ella Burke believes she and her Naperville Central teammates need to make up for lost time and might as well try to have twice the fun this spring if possible.
After the COVID pandemic wiped out last year’s football season, Burke is making her college debut this spring, and she’s a big contributor to the Redhawks’ great season, which came after Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Metea Valley in the semifinals the section was extended to the Naperville Center. Burke helped in the winning goal against the Mustangs, but just as important was that she had a defense that protected the lead against a Metea Valley team that did their best all night.
“Last year it was crazy not having a season. For me and the other sophomores, this is our first season. We feel like newbies,” said Burke. “But it’s absolutely amazing to go to a section finale. It’s so cool.”
The Mustangs, who ended the year 12-8-1 after a third straight loss to the Redhawks, were the first to strike on Tuesday when Jordan Lange took their team 1-0 less than four minutes into the game. Lange also had a goal and an assist in Metea’s regional title win against Waubonsie Valley on Saturday.
But Naperville Central, looking for its first section championship since 1995, quickly responded when Sullivan Schubel buried a rebound with 33:40 remainder in the first half. Megan Norkett then counted the game winner less than five minutes later and neither team scored from there, although both teams had chances.
“It was a little nerve-wracking when they scored the first goal, but we kept our energies high and I knew we’d come back stronger,” said Burke, whose team will take on rival Naperville North in the section title on Friday.
The Mustangs, led by the quick attackers Lange and Tyra King, played their scoring chances, but only managed one goal against the Redhawks tandem of keeper Trinity Strang and Abigail O’Connor, who each played one half.
“We played really well today. We had a lot of opportunities. We just couldn’t get the ball into the net,” said Mustangs coach Chris Whaley. “They are a great team. We got better and better as the season went on and we played our best football tonight. I’m so proud of our girls, but it’s hard to get out of this section.”
Schubel attributed another big night to the defense of their team and also downplayed their game-binding score and booked them as the right place at the right time.
“Ella at the back is always great and saved us a lot today, together with Sophia Skoubis and the entire defense,” said Schubel. “I think we’re really excited now. We didn’t have much time together last year, but this year we’ve fallen into a pretty good rhythm and we’re playing really well. As for my goal, Megan Norkett won the open.” Kick and I just followed it up. I was pretty lucky. “