Warriors use fast start to beat Fenton for third straight sectional title
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By Curt Herron
It's nice to know that your sectional title match is only one-tenth over and your team is already moving on to the super-sectional.
That scenario obviously doesn't happen very often, but that's exactly what unfolded at Friday's Class 2A Wheaton Academy Sectional.
The host Warriors went out and collected three goals before their championship match against Fenton was even eight minutes old.
Another score before the break and three more after it helped Wheaton Academy wrap up a 7-1 win over the Bison in West Chicago.
It marks the third straight year that coach Scott Marksberry's Warriors have captured a sectional championship.
The Warriors went on to win the Class 2A state title in 2009 before claiming a third place finish a year ago.
They'll assure themselves of a third straight trophy if they can win Tuesday's 4:30 p.m. Benedictine University Super-Sectional.
But that will be no easy task, considering that the Warriors (14-6) will have to get past a rival, St. Francis (18-6-2).
Wheaton Academy won 2-1 over the Spartans on May 2. St. Francis beat Nazareth Academy 1-0 to win its first sectional title.
The two teams met for sectional championships the past two seasons with the Warriors winning 4-1 in 2009 and 4-0 a year ago.
Despite allowing their initial postseason goal, the Warriors have outscored their opponents 30-1 in four playoff matches.
Crystal Thomas scored four goals to lead the winners, netting the first two scores and getting a hat trick in the first half.
Ally Witt chipped in with the other three scores and also handed out assists on a pair of the first-half goals by Thomas.
Also assisting on scores for the Warriors were Molly Cook, Rachael Nasralla, Lizzie Bergquist and Brigitta Engebretsen.
All six of those individuals have been a member of the Warriors' three-straight sectional championship squads.
The other three Warriors who have been on those three teams are Kerrin Clancy, Lexi Youngberg and Kristen Morency.
"In the first eight minutes of the game, we looked exactly like we've looked at training the last few days," Marksberry said. "We moved the ball the same way with the same patterns and speed and finished with even more intensity than in training.
"It was a great start, but it was exactly what I would have expected based on our last two practices. But our girls usually come strong in every game, and that's especially been the case in the last couple of years during the postseason.
"Any match with St. Francis is always great because it's a rivalry and we love playing against those girls. We played them in the sectional finals the last two years so to see them in a super-sectional just adds that much more to the game."
In a season that has been hampered by bad weather conditions, the Warriors are starting to perform well at the right time.
"At the start of the season, we had a lot of young players and we were very inconsistent," Marksberry said. "We've kind of shaken that by continuing to train hard and also to play hard together and we're getting much more consistent.
"I feel like we haven't come close to peaking yet, which is good in one way. We'd like to be a little farther along in terms of peaking but I feel like we're getting better every day and things are really starting to come together for us.
"We've got nine girls who have made two straight trips to state and are looking for a third. They do a great job of talking to the other girls and communicating what we need to do and think so we stay in a rhythm during the postseason."
Thomas started the early scoring burst just 90 seconds into the match when she connected off of a pass from Cook.
In the fourth minute, Thomas found the net for the second time, with Witt collecting her first assist of the day.
The Warriors made it 3-0 with 7:50 gone when Witt connected for the initial time, following a pass from Nasralla.
"In the past few weeks, we've worked on giving a name to every pass so we know where it's going," Nasralla said. "That's what we did during the first 10 minutes and that's what created our sharpness with our passes.
"Our pregame talk consisted of remembering that the presence of God is with us. What we say is that we like to play the way we think our Lord would play soccer. And that's we came out trying to do in today's game.
"It's really nice to be a senior and looking at another run for state. This year is different than the others because we had a brand new team. We've had to get to know each other and we've drawn close this season."
Wheaton Academy added its fourth goal in the 24th minute when the combination of Thomas and Witt hooked up again.
Fenton collected its lone highlight during the 23rd minute when Tina Guarino put in a loose ball from close range.
That's how the two squads headed into the break, but the Warriors quickly built on their 4-1 lead after halftime.
In the 43rd minute, Witt scored her second goal on a line drive that was set up following a pass from Bergquist.
About three minutes after that, Thomas picked up her final score when her attempt hit the post and then went in.
Just a minute later, the Warriors made it 7-1 when Engebretsen sent a free kick to Witt, who scored on a header.
"I hope that we can keep starting off quickly like we did today," Clancy said. "And it was awesome to see the sun finally come out. Although a lot of players on our team are young, they have been adjusting very well.
"It was good to see us going from one- to two-touch, moving after you pass and calling for the ball. One of the things that we've done really well in practice and carried over to games is calling a name before we pass.
"One of the things that I love about this team is that I can always count on everyone to work hard. It would be awesome if we can get back to state. Winning state, taking third and maybe doing it again would be sweet."