Knights girls soccer wins first Regional crown
by Doug Oleson
ROCHELLE, Ill.—You pretty much knew it was coming; it was mainly a question of when.
The KHS girls soccer team entered the Rochelle Regional last Wednesday against IMSA, a team they had already beaten 10-0 this season. Missing their first six shots, the Knights erupted for five quick tallies in five minutes, leaving little doubt as to the outcome of the game. Adding a half-dozen more, they rolled to an easy 11-0 win, propelling them into the title game against Rosary on Friday.
The Knights followed up the opening-round blowout with a 4-2 Regional Championship win over Rosary.
The wins gave the Knights a record of 17-3, tying the school record for the most wins in a single season by a soccer team, boys or girls.
“I’m so proud of this team,” senior co-captain Taylor Opperman said. “We definitely deserve this. We’ve worked hard all season.”
“It’s pretty awesome,” freshman Lindsay Penkala said about setting a record in her first year on the varsity against IMSA.
“It’s better than last year,” sophomore Lauren Ortiz added. “It sets something for us (to break) next year.”
Both girls said the record wasn’t something they aimed for at the beginning of the season but once it got closer, they all focused their attention on getting it.
Both girls also contributed to the scoring with at least one goal each. Kiandra Powell, Abby Taylor and Holy Collingbourne each scored a pair of goals for Kaneland, while Madison Jurcenko, Kaylee Bilotta, Courtney Diddell and Ashley Crottea scored once. Heather Ortiz, a senior, assisted on three of the scores.
The Kaneland attack against IMSA was so overwhelming, head coach Scott Parillo—emptying his bench early—instructed his team not to score. At one point, he even told the referees his team was offside to thwart a scoring drive.
Although it’s not easy to deliberately prevent yourself from scoring, Lauren Ortiz said it allowed the team to work on its weaker areas, such as cross passing and ball control.
“It’s hard, but if we have a breakaway, we want to finish,” Opperman said.
“It’s important, but not the most important thing,” Parillo said of the record. “We’ve had some good teams here, but they didn’t get the one thing.”
Meaning a Regional title.
However, KHS got just that on Friday.
Heather Ortiz raced towards the Kaneland bench, arms outstretched, a big grin on her face.
“The goal isn’t mine, but I got it,” she called out.
The senior forward had just scored the Knights’ final goal in their 4-2 win against Rosary to claim the Rochelle Regional title. Rosary (8-8-1), whom Kaneland had beaten during the regular season, had eliminated the Knights in five of the past seven regionals.
Although Ortiz didn’t think she had scored, a picture showed the ball bouncing off her shoulder, past Rosary keeper Mary Dant and into the net.
“I was on her in the middle and I couldn’t tell,” Ortiz said with a grin after the game. “But I want it.”
The title is the first girls’ soccer Regional title for Parillo in his 16 years at the helm, propelling the team into this week’s Rockford Boylan Sectional (they were scheduled to play Prairie Ridge Tuesday night). The win also gave the Knights a record of 17-3, tying the school record for the most wins in a single season by a soccer team, boys or girls. They set the girls’ record with their 11-0 win over IMSA two nights earlier.
“We wanted this for our coach,” Kaneland senior Emily Grams said.
“This is awesome,” Parillo said. “The girls worked hard all year for this, and they deserve it. I’m just happy for all the girls, not only on this team but all the girls (who ever played for Kaneland).”
All of Parillo’s players shared his sentiment.
“This means the world to us seniors,” Heather Ortiz said. “We’ve gone all four years without getting this. I can’t explain the feeling in words.”
“Being our senior year and the last day of school, it’s like it doesn’t seem real,” senior Courtney Diddell said.
Diddell scored one of her team’s goals when she tapped in a perfectly timed pass from Powell. Colingbourne, who also had a goal, outraced two Rosary defenders before feeding Paige Guyton, setting her up with a one-on-one breakaway for Kaneland’s first goal at the 26.24 mark of the first half.
“This is a great group of girls to play with,” Taylor said, noting that the Regional title—especially coming in her first year on the varsity—means more to her than the record. “That’s what we’ve been working for all year.”
“This is a record-setting night,” Grams said, noting that it didn’t matter who the win came against. Still, she admitted that the victory was sweet revenge.
Since Rosary is the Knights’ rival, sophomore Lauren Ortiz added that it’s fun to play them for the title.
Following Heather Ortiz’s goal, Kaneland was up 4-0 when two quick second-half goals by Rosary’s Quincey Kellett and Elizabeth Kelley cut the deficit in half. Although there was no more scoring, the final few minutes saw a frenetic effort by both teams.
If anything, the Knights agreed the two goals were almost a good thing.
Admitting she was a little surprised, Diddell said the team was getting tired and needed the shock to help them refocus.
“It helped us realize they’re still in the game,” Heather Ortiz said.
“It wouldn’t have been an exciting Rosary game if they hadn’t gotten those two goals,” Parillo said.