AURORA – Win or lose, coach Kristy Kane realized Thursday would be a misty-eyed occasion as her Aurora Central Catholic girls soccer team squared off with her former employer.
The Chargers’ 2-1 win against Rosary was one for Kane to celebrate, but mixed emotions were inevitable.
“It’s hard at the end of the game,” Kane said. “Because I’m so happy we won, the girls deserve it so much and we worked so hard, but you then see these players you care so much about so upset on the other bench. Usually, I’m not paying attention to what the other bench is doing after a win.”
Kane has helped engineer a major turnaround for the once-struggling Chargers program, with the victory against Rosary the latest piece of compelling evidence. ACC (7-1-1, 4-1 Suburban Christian Conference) rallied from a 1-0 hole early in the second half to defeat a Rosary program that has dominated ACC over the years.
“She was very happy,” ACC goalkeeper Bry Mandarino said of Kane. “She got a little bit teared up at the end. She was very happy that we won it.”
Kane, the Royals’ successful coach the past two seasons, was released from her teaching role at Rosary, prompting her to accept an administrative position at ACC, along with taking over the Chargers’ girls soccer program.
Kane inherited a young but talented ACC team.
“I thought maybe it would take a while to build a program,” Kane said. “I just feel like I’m a pretty lucky coach.”
While the Chargers are heavy on underclassmen, junior Jordyn Sundberg lends experience and loads of skill. Sundberg scored both goals in ACC’s comeback, a left-footed drive from just outside the box with 30:01 to play in the match to tie it, and an even longer score on a free kick with 23:59 remaining that Rosary goalkeeper Lauren Frasca tipped but could not corral.
“I knew with the wind that I had the natural curve so I really just kind of kicked that one,” Sundberg said of the free kick. “But I kind of had a [target] that it was going to go in.”
Kane considers Sundberg a vastly underrated player and said she’s a tremendous role model for younger girls in ACC’s program.
“She can hit the goal in places that even college-level players, I feel like even girls on our national team, wish they could hit the ball sometimes the way that she can hit the ball,” Kane said. “She’s a dangerous player, and she’s just an all-around great kid, great soccer player, team leader.
“She has a great shot with both feet but she has everything in my book that a great player has.”
Rosary (4-7, 3-1 SCC) scored first about five minutes into the second half on a goal by sophomore Caroline Maley, who capitalized on one of several deep throw-ins from Quincy Kellett.
Maley played on Rosary’s varsity team under Kane as a freshman last year.
“It was kind of fun, going against an old coach,” Maley said. “There’s kind of still a soft spot for her. We wish her the best.”
The Royals absorbed heavy graduation losses from last year and have also dealt with missing personnel at various points as they acclimate to new coach Brian Frank.
“We’re not going to quit,” Frank said. “We’re not going to roll over. The season’s not done yet.”
The Chargers won only three matches last year, with a blowout loss to Rosary among their numerous setbacks. To complement Mandarino’s emergence, Kane shifted some formerly offensive-minded players to defense as she sought to build a blue-collar team that could win low-scoring matches like Thursday’s.
“With our defense, we’re just so strong back there,” Sundberg said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to get the ball up top so we can run up there and get the goals that we get. Our defense is just so strong this year compared to last year.”
Kane said she didn’t need to supply the Chargers with a deluxe scouting report on Rosary, given the proximity of the rival programs.
“They know already,” Kane said. “They’re friends with each other, they have mutual friends. They know what the players on Rosary are like, they know who are dangerous players. So it wasn’t even that I needed to say anything to them. They are well aware.”