NAPERVILLE – If someone had told Wheaton Academy senior Gretchen Pearson before the season started that she would be playing in a state championship game for the second straight season, she wouldn’t have believed it.
“No, especially since we played Benet [on May 1] and we lost [4-0],” Pearson said. “They were [a Class] 2A [team], so that was a huge discouragement to us, but we had to bounce back from that and enjoy each other as a team.”
The Davidson-bound Pearson and her teammates did that in a big way, winning nine of their next 10 games, including a 1-0 victory over Lemont on penalty kicks in the Class 2A state semifinals June 2 at North Central College.
The Warriors needed 12 rounds of penalty kicks to prevail 7-6 in the shootout, which left them drained for the June 3 final against Troy Triad.
Once again, 100 minutes of regulation and overtime failed to produce a goal. This time the Warriors didn’t fare as well in the shootout, which went seven rounds before Triad prevailed 5-4.
“It was a team effort,” Wheaton Academy junior Erin Teevans said. “It was no one’s fault. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.”
Pearson led the Warriors (21-6) with 29 goals this season, while Teevans added 18, one behind sophomore Sophia Lindquist, to go with 24 assists.
Pearson missed an open 6-yard shot high early in the second half, and Teevans later was stopped on a breakaway by Triad goalkeeper Mercedes King.
Both came through in the shootout after the Warriors missed their first two attempts. Wheaton goalie Marta Oster saved one of Triad’s attempts, and Maggie Liechty, Emmerson Fuller, Pearson and Teevans scored to put the Warriors up briefly at 4-3.
The Knights (22-6) stayed alive when Sierra Schlemmer converted. King then dove to her left to stop the Warriors’ Holland Kosiek, and Jody Ellis followed with a conversion to clinch Triad’s second state title.
The Warriors, who have three state titles and captured the Class 1A crown last year, were trying to become the second school to win state championships in different classes in consecutive seasons. They came awfully close.
“Our coach told us [June 2] we were only allowed to rejoice for two hours before focusing on our game for today and I think we all came mentally prepared,” Pearson said. “We were willing to push our bodies to whatever we needed to do.”
“I’m proud of the girls,” Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke said. “We were battling fatigue, [but] they believed in each other.
“I don’t know if too many people thought we’d be back here after moving up a class. We’re thrilled that we got to play to the very last day and play in the game that really matters.”
It was the Warriors’ first second-place finish at state.
“I’m so proud of how far we got,” Teevans said. “Of course we would love to be the first-place team right now, but I wouldn’t trade getting first place to not being on this team.
“I would pick the friendships and relationships I would make over a state championship any day.”