Saffell hat trick can't overcome slow start by Blackhawks
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By Darryl Mellema
It is, of course, not possible to start a match with one team one goal ahead of the other, but maybe that would help West Aurora this season.
That's not being unnecessarily negative since the Blackhawks have played some good soccer this year.
But all too often, they've had to suffer the sting of surrendering a goal in order to get themselves going.
On Monday, Oswego East scored twice late in the first half - and then the Blackhawks came to life.
From that point, they scored three times, equal to the visiting Wolves - but those early goals doomed West Aurora to a 5-3 defeat.
"It takes the other team to score a goal for us to finally wake up," West Aurora coach Laura Wagley said. "Once we do, we're on. We fought back today."
Katie Ross scored the two early goals that put West Aurora (3-13-2) in a hole but as has often been the case this season, Jessica Saffell provided the offensive spark.
She finished the day with three goals and 14 goals for the season and kept trying to resurrect her team's chances.
Asked if it still hurt to lose despite hitting a hat trick, Saffell said, "It does, but it's better getting three and losing 5-3 than losing 5-0."
Saffell's free kick with 18 minutes left in the first half brought the Blackhawks to within 2-1 and the score remained that way until the 52nd minute of play.
Lauren Hoppensteadt scored at that point for Oswego East (6-5-2), and the Wolves' senior scored again five minutes later to give her team a solid 4-1 cushion.
But the Blackhawks weren't finished. Saffell stole the ball with 17 minutes left, moved left-to-right 25 yards from goal and rifled a shot into the right side of the net.
Hoppensteadt completed her own hat trick with a penalty kick and restored a three-goal cushion for the Wolves.
However, Saffell responded with a long free kick from near the left sideline.
After that third Saffell goal, seven minutes remained in the match, and there was still the chance of a late rally, but Oswego East survived the frantic final few minutes.
"It was really exciting," Saffell said. "We kept working at it."
Those early minutes aside, West Aurora gave as good as it got in the match.
Without creating much, the Blackhawks were always dangerous any time Saffell got the ball 30 yards from goal or closer. The sophomore was a constant threat to score, especially in the second half.
"I think we played better," Saffell said. "In the first half, we were kind of asleep. In the second half, we woke up. We pushed more to get goals, so we did better."
Midway through the second half, the match reached its most wide-open and play moved from midfield to midfield.
West Aurora never got the goal to reduce the deficit to one goal, which might have made the finishing minutes very tense.
"They kept going," Wagley said. "Even when calls didn't go our way, they didn't let it affect them."
Throughout the season, Saffell has been the most consistent component of the Blackhawks' offensive lineup.
"She's awesome," Wagley said. "She's just a sophomore and that's I'm happy about. She's only going to get better.
"She kicks it harder and harder every game. I know I don't want to be behind that ball."
West Aurora returns to DuPage Valley Conference play with a Thursday trip to Glenbard North. The Blackhawks will try to end a six-match losing streak in that contest.
"We played a lot better than we did on Saturday," Wagley said. "We get a lot of moral victories."
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