Stevenson won a second NSC title in three years after beating Libertyville 1-0 in Lincolnshire on Monday night with a sensational first-half goal from Mimi VanZanten and a watertight defense.
With the win, the Patriots (14-1-1) take home the big trophy all by themselves after sharing with both Libertyville (12-3-2, 5-1-1) and Warren Hardware a year ago .
“It was a great game for both teams. We all know each other from the club so a hard fought win in these conditions says a lot about our team,” said VanZanten.
VanZanten’s composure on the ball after turning over two defenders before firing with her left foot from just outside the box proved the ultimate winner in the 27th minute.
“Mimi scored a great goal for us. (It) was so important because we played the entire first half against strong winds,” said junior Bri Welter, who was tasked with marking for the Wildcats’ great outside midfielder Dakota Lyons.
Lyon’s pace, speed, strength and powerful left foot could have been fatal if Welter hadn’t done something good.
“Dakota is such a huge talent, but when we hired Bre to guard her all night, we knew she would do her best to keep her from hurting us from the outside. And I think she did a very good job against a player who’s going to play at Ohio State University next year,” said Patriots coach PepeJon Chavez.
Both sides would be greeted by unseasonably warm weather and a strong southerly wind that would rush through Patriots Stadium. This win made it difficult for the ball to stay on the pitch, especially when sent in the air.
Stevenson supporters held their breath as an early ball sent over the top by Abby Gordon freed Avery Gleason at the other end and alone on Patriots keeper Mandy Meliker just 6 minutes later.
Gleason went over the bar on one of a few good chances the visitors created in the first half and couldn’t find the back of the net on every opportunity.
“I should have used that when I had the chance.[We]had a few others but just weren’t sharp enough in the final third to make any of them count,” admitted Gleason, whose twin sister Paige came late after being scratched from the starting XI by Wildcats coach Daniel DePaz with an injury .
“Everyone struggles with injuries. It was hard losing Paige just before kick-off and others picked up tonight and the team played hard and tried to play our possession game but that first goal was enough for them to win,” said DePaz.
Sydney Dulak had a chance just after the break for the Wildcats and later on the freshman almost beat Meliker after running up the center channel with her strong run and seeing her collect a nice ball from Avery Gleason.
Patriots student Ellie Egeland came close three times in the second half as the home side tried to double their advantage. But tonight it was the collective effort of Welter and her defenders Hailey Livesay, Kaitlyn Hong and Haylie Popkey who stood their ground to secure the win.
“It was a great win and one I’m very happy and proud of. Now we’re getting back to work and if all goes well we might see them back at the sections,” said Chavez.
Next up for the Patriots is their season finale in Carmel on Thursday. Stevenson will host Buffalo Grove in his regional opener next week.
The Wildcats head to St. Viator ahead of their regional home game against Palatine.