GALESBURG — The brief appearance of a rainbow above Galesburg’s VanDyke Field just before the second Class 2A sectional semifinal may have foreshadowed Wednesday night going in favor of the Irish yet again, but it wasn’t luck that made the difference in Peoria Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Geneseo.
Playing the PND powerhouse for the sixth straight postseason, the Geneseo girls’ soccer team knew the matchup in the 2A Galesburg Sectional semifinals would come down to who could take advantage of the scarce opportunities they were afforded.
The game in front of a crowd stocked with green and white was ruled by defense, and the Lady Leafs’ offense just came up a bit short as its win streak ended at 22 games, tied for the 14th-longest winning stretch in state history according to IHSA online records.
Regional top-seed Geneseo (22-2-1) also set its program high in wins.
Regional second-seed PND (17-4-1) will play Dunlap — which beat Rock Island 6-0 in the first game — with hopes of winning a third straight sectional title.
A goal by Chloe Fleeman off a Bridget Taylor assist was the difference for PND.
“We just didn’t get back,” Geneseo coach Harvey Morton said. “We talked the last few days about getting back in numbers, and we kind of jumped in on the outside and they got around us and had somebody up top. They made a good play on a good pass and that’s hard to defend.”
Morton’s team was out-shot 10-3 as PND keeper Leah Anderson did not need to record a save. An Irish defense anchored by senior center back and IHSSCA All-Stater Autumn Weeks was very physical and challenged every Geneseo run.
“We came out ready to go today. We marked well, we played well,” Morton said. “Maybe not as good offensively as we could have tonight, but the effort was there all game. We had opportunities and it just wasn’t our night.”
Geneseo’s last postseason win over PND came in 2016 en route to the program’s first sectional title.
Morton said his returning players can hopefully learn from the game.
The coach said the chemistry of this year’s group is what will be missed most.
“This group gets along probably as well as any since I’ve been here the last 10, 11 years,” Morton said. “It’s just a fun group to be around and the seniors did a good job leading. They were leaders the whole year.”
Despite falling short of the sectional finals, Morton said the team can still be proud of the regular season which featured great wins in a 22-game winning streak after game two.
“We’ve been in some tight spots and they’ve responded well and worked hard and kept that positive attitude,” Morton said. “And they’ve been a great group to coach.”
Dunlap 6, Rock Island 0: The Rock Island girls’ soccer team has raised the bar for future seasons this year in putting together its longest postseason run ever playing in 2A. Earning its first regional title provides a new standard, just not quite to the level of powerhouse Dunlap, which won 6-0 in Wednesday’s first 2A Galesburg Sectional semifinal.
Rock Island coach Mike Mertel said a strong, balanced attack led to regional top-seeded Dunlap (19-3-1) scoring its first goal in 48 seconds and tallying three goals in each half against the fifth-seeded Rocks (10-11).
“They were definitely ready right from kick off and played well, supporting their attack and executing well,” said Mertel. “I don’t think our defense was as organized as they could be to match up with that.”
RI started six freshmen and a sophomore, so the imbalance at this stage was understandable against a successful team which won its 13th regional title in 16 years last week. But Rocky’s young players know what to work toward. Mertel said he hopes the Rocks can emulate successful runs of programs like Dunlap and Geneseo.
“I was happy to see that they want more in the coming years, and weren’t shy of it this year,” Mertel said. “The core is coming back and they have the advantage of starting freshman year.”
Rocky loses senior starters Mikayla DePover, Kayla Garcia, and Amber Haskill, but the senior class can be proud of how it finished.
“When they look back four years ago, it’s night and day,” Mertel said. “We just have to look forward and be proud of where we’re at and keep moving forward.”