ROMEOVILLE - In the end it took about 24 hours, but Hinsdale Central's girls soccer team is headed to state.
In a game that started Tuesday but was postponed to Wednesday because of weather, the Red Devils topped Sandburg 2-0 at the Lewis University supersectional to clinch their first state berth since 2009.
"I can't even believe we're going to state," senior forward Casey May said. "We've worked so hard for this and I just think it's a great opportunity for our team."
Early in the game Tuesday, it was May who ran onto Alison Cerny's long pass over the top and sent the ball into the upper right corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the game. Her strike came just before the first of many lightning strikes that forced the game to be postponed.
"It just gave us some comfort knowing we were up 1-0," May said. "We knew the game wasn't over, but just having that cushion was nice."
Roughly a day later, Alex Otto secured the win with a score with a little more than 15 minutes left to play.
"It felt pretty amazing, pretty unreal, and to think that helped us get to the next game and having all my teammates congratulating me, that was pretty cool," Otto said.
What made Otto's goal even sweeter was that it was her first for the varsity squad.
"Alex is a young lady who at the beginning of the season was brought up to varsity and we said to her, 'You're not ready yet, but work on these things,' and she came back and re-joined us and has played well," Central head coach Michael Smith said. "I'm happy for her. For her to move into space and show herself early and then stay composed and finish is impressive."
Reaching the state semifinals is the realization of a goal the Red Devils (17-3-3) started talking about at the beginning of the school year. Smith at times had to remind his players that the season was months away, but he never dissuaded them from discussing a state trip.
"I'm excited, and I'm excited for the girls. They've been talking about this since August — 'We're going to state, we're going to state,'" Smith said. "In August I was like, 'All right girls, I love the energy, but we've got some time. Let's be able to manage those emotions.' The second we got back together for tryouts it was more reserved, but it was definitely something they were talking about. I think their work ethic has demonstrated that they're a team on a mission.
"And it's not just the seniors and juniors, but everyone collectively talking about the same thing. It's been great to coach them because they're passionate about that and they want that."