Blackhawks defeat Romeoville in regional opener
By Curt Herron
There were plenty of big smiles that lit up West Aurora's bench on Friday afternoon, and with good reason.
That's because the Blackhawks snapped a nearly month-long losing streak by picking up a postseason victory.
And West Aurora pulled off that feat minus a few regulars who weren't available as the result of the school's prom.
All in all, there were a lot of positives for coach Laura Wagley's youthful squad which came out of their 3-1 win at Romeoville.
Sophomore Jessica Saffell added three more goals to her resume to not only account for all of her team's scoring, but also give her 23 on the year.
After the Spartans (4-16-1) tied things up at 1-1 shortly after the midpoint of the opening half, Saffell responded in a big way.
The Blackhawks (4-18-2) got a goal from their sophomore forward just over two minutes later to grab a 2-1 halftime lead.
She closed out the scoring midway through the second half to assure that West's 12-match losing streak would come to an end.
As a result of the win, West advances to Tuesday's Waubonsie Valley Regional, where it meets the hosts for a 4:30 p.m. match.
West hadn't won since April 16, when it claimed a 3-1 victory over Rochelle in its own invite to cap a three-match winning streak.
But although it obviously struggled during that stretch, the Blackhawks kept battling and were rewarded for their efforts.
The Blackhawks dropped three matches by one goal and lost five others by two scores during their concluded losing streak.
And in its final regular season match, West took an early lead over Wheaton Warrenville South and were still tied 1-1 at the break.
The Tigers went on to claim a 5-1 victory and earn a share of the DuPage Valley Conference title with Naperville Central.
Despite the defeat, West obviously received a boost by putting up a good fight against a team that has been ranked all season.
Click to hear coach Laura Wagley interview
The encouraging news for the Blackhawks is that Friday's match featured only one senior among its starting 11 on the field.
Stefanie Rempala was the lone senior to start in the early afternoon match on a squad made up almost entirely of younger players.
Juniors Kassandra Ramirez, Brissa Renovato, Felicia Dattolo, Ivette Pulido and Rachel Simpson also were in the starting lineup.
The other sophomore in the first group waS Brynn Lehman while freshmen Daniela Bueno, Kelly Simpson and Tori Raines earned starts.
West grabbed the early advantage when Saffell connected for the first time on a short shot with 24:07 left in the opening half.
But Romeoville answered with 19:43 remaining before the break when Nancy Diaz lined a shot off the crossbar that found the net.
Saffell put the Blackhawks in front for good at 2-1 just 2:08 later, however, when she scored on a shot from about 15 yards out.
Click to hear Jessica Saffell interview
The Blackhawks kept regular pressure on the Spartan net, firing off over 20 shots during the match with 15 of those being on goal.
Meanwhile, the hosts were only able to manage one other shot on goal beside their goal, resulting in an easy afternoon for Dattolo.
That was fine with the junior keeper, who was pulled out of the field to start in the net for the first time against WW South.
Click to hear Felicia Dattolo interview
Saffell added an insurance score with 19:08 left in the match and the Blackhawks ran out the clock to wrap up a satisfying victory.
While the Blackhawks realize they'll have their hands full against one of the state's best teams, they're happy to still be alive.
And with so many young players on the squad, that match should be another good experience which will benefit West in the future.
Click to hear Daniela Bueno interview
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