JOLIET — It had been so long since the Minooka girl’s soccer program had won a regional title that some of their varsity players hadn’t even been born yet.
On Friday night, though, its long drought ended, as the Indians edged Lincoln-Way Central 3-2 to bring home their first regional title since 1999.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to say that we are the regional champs,” Minooka coach Chris Brolley said. “I’m almost at a loss of words. We’ve worked hard so many years now to finally get over this hump, and what a game it was. It was fun to watch.”
Big time players make big time plays in big time games, and the case was the same Friday for Minooka. The ladies relied on their senior leader Jill Hetfleisch, and she delivered, scoring all three goals for Minooka in the game. Despite being double teamed for the last 50 minutes of the game, she was still able to find that third goal for her seventh hat trick of the season.
Not only did the senior have a big game, but she’s also been battling an injury to her left foot.
Hetfleisch has been wearing a boot around for the last couple of weeks, but takes it off and plays it out during games.
“With my foot hurting, I was a little scared on how I’d play,” Hetfleisch said. “When the game started going, though, I knew I couldn’t be scared and I had to keep going to help out my team.”
Despite the strong play from Hetfleisch, the Knights were able to hang tough with the Indians in the first half. After Hetfleisch’s first goal made it a 1-0 advantage for the Indians, Lincoln-Way responded, as Sara Petrone found the back of the net to tie it up at one.
Then, after Hetfleisch had scored 30 seconds later to re-gain the lead for the Indians, the Knights scored less than four minutes after that, as sophomore Heidi Killinger put one past Minooka goalkeeper Mallory Schade to tie the game at two. That was the score heading into halftime. All four goals were scored within 13 minutes of each other.
“That’s playoff soccer right there for you,” Brolley said. “Every little thing you can capitalize on is huge. They battled us pretty well.”
When Hetfleisch scored her third goal of the game, the time remaining was 25:06. That was a long time for the Indians to try and hold off a late rally from Lincoln-Way.
“I couldn’t even sit,” Brolley said. “That 25 minutes was the longest 25 minutes of my life.”
Knowing there was a lot of time left, Brolley decided to move Hetfleisch down to the defensive end, just to have another body down there on the back end. Hetfleisch has played defense before, so it was an obvious move for the Indians to make.
“We moved her to sweeper to see if we could hold them off,” Brolley said. “They only had three more opportunities after that, so our strategy worked.”
“It’s great knowing coach likes to use me on defense because we have such a stacked defense,” Hetfleisch added. “It’s just great to help out everybody and make sure that we let no goals in.”
The victory advances Minooka to the sectional semifinal Tuesday at Joliet West High School.
“It’s unbelievable,” Brolley said. “Our team defense helped us out there at the end of the game and it was unreal to see us win. Lets carry that momentum and win another game.”