SCHAUMBURG – Freshman Sami Balara lost her first two face-offs on Wednesday evening.
She glanced at her arm where she had written, “next play,” before she took the next one.
Balara won that draw for St. Charles co-op with 70 seconds remaining and Neuqua Valley didn’t sniff possession again as St. Charles held on for a thrilling 10-8 victory over the Wildcats in the Schaumburg girls lacrosse supersectional.
“I didn’t get the first two but you have to find it within yourself to push to where you need to get it,” Balara said. “So I just move on from the last play. I’ve been doing draws since I was young and once you get the momentum it starts carrying you over.”
The game had to be completed on Wednesday after being suspended on Tuesday night due to inclement weather with St. Charles leading 8-6 with 10:49 left to play.
“At the end of the day we did our game plan and followed through with what we wanted to do,” St. Charles coach Jordyn McFarlane said. “Not everything is going to go our way, but I think for 10 minutes and 49 seconds they pushed and gave us anything and everything we could’ve asked for. It’s a great day for our seniors, a great day for our program. It’s the first time ever to the Final Four so it sets a precedent, a piece of history these girls will have for the rest of their lives.”
St. Charles will face Hinsdale Central at 5 p.m. in the first state semifinal on Friday at Hinsdale Central. The Red Devils beat St. Charles 12-5 in March. The winner will get New Trier or Glenbrook South and play for a state title at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
It took 22 minutes of resumed action for St. Charles to make history with senior star Makayla Thomas putting an exclamation point on the victory, scoring just as the buzzer sounded for her fifth goal of the game.
“Just the feeling when the clock ended and we won was indescribable,” Thomas said. “It’s so amazing.”
St. Charles had possession when play resumed and milked the clock down to 5:47 before senior Maddie Wiltrout saw a great opportunity to score and took it for a 9-5 advantage.
“We knew they would come out strong and be aggressive, and if they got a minor foul on us the clock would keep running,” Wiltrout said. “We just waited until they gave us that little nudge and we’d reset. We had our plays set and had things we needed to get done in that amount of time and when the clock hit five minutes it was time to go and put the ball in the back of the net.”
Neuqua Valley kept battling, getting a pair of goals from Lauren Reitzel with 2:13 and then 1:19 remaining to pull within 9-8.
“We’ve always had the propensity to score,” Wildcats coach John Scanlon said. “Even with 40 seconds left we could’ve come back and scored, maybe even two. I don’t count them out until the buzzer sounds.”
That’s why Balara’s winning the final draw of the game was so huge, as well as St. Charles’ ability to maintain possession until Thomas scored.
“She won the won that mattered,” McFarlane said. “It’s so awesome to have a freshman step up and get the job done.”
On this date a year ago,St. Charles lost a heart-breaker in overtime to Naperville North in the Hoffman Estates supersectional. Returning players undoubtedly remembered how they felt after that game and were willing to do whatever it took to ensure they didn’t experience it again.
“It’s been a conversation through the whole season of that horrible feeling of losing to a team we had already beaten in the season,” Thomas said. “At least for the returning players it was like redeeming ourselves for what happened.”