Jade Eriksen-Russo wasn’t called up to Metea Valley’s varsity until two weeks into the season, but she played a key role in a watershed moment in school history Saturday.
The freshman forward scored her first career goal with 36:38 left in the second half and the host Mustangs went on to secure a 1-1 tie with District 204 rival Waubonsie Valley in Upstate Eight Valley action in Aurora.
Eriksen-Russo’s goal was the first one Metea Valley has scored against Waubonsie Valley and this is the first time the Mustangs have not lost to the Warriors.
“It feels great,” Eriksen-Russo said. “I’m just happy that I have the opportunity to be here playing with these girls because they are just amazing. It’s a beautiful day.”
The historic goal came on Metea’s first shot of the second half as a result of a quick counterattack. Senior striker Jenna Kentgen sent a lead pass that found Eriksen-Russo streaking behind the Waubonsie defense on the left side and the rookie sent a 12-yard shot into the lower-left corner to force the tie.
“I’m pretty sure it started with a steal from the defense and then Jenna got a good cross over the field because all the momentum was going one way and it was just one-touch in,” Eriksen-Russo said. “It was great. They’re our big rivals and I know a lot of the girls on that team, too, so it feels great to not let them beat us.”
The Mustangs (2-1-1, 1-0-1) outshot the Warriors (2-1-2, 0-0-1) by a 19-10 margin and were the aggressors in the early going, squeezing off five of the game’s first six shots.
But the Warriors took a 1-0 lead on their first shot, a perfectly placed 20-yarder from senior Mackenzie Fuller at the 27:01 mark of the first half. It was the first goal of the season for the UIC-bound Fuller, who wasn’t surprised with the way the Mustangs played.
“They’re one of our rivals so we knew they were going to come out strong and they wanted to beat us,” Fuller said. “At the beginning we didn’t match the intensity but by the end we were able to match the intensity. We definitely feel good about the game.”
The Warriors might not have felt as good if they hadn’t survived a flurry in the final minute. Freshman Nicki Hernandez sent a corner kick to the far post to Madie Sandberg, who knocked the ball back across the goal mouth to Kentgen, whose header hit the underside of the crossbar with 43 seconds left.
Waubonsie goalkeeper Emma Rigby (eight saves) alertly rushed off her line and dove on the ball before the Mustangs could get to it.
“That was nerve-wracking,” Fuller said. “I kept looking at the clock to see when time was going to be up.”
Kentgen also barely missed scoring in the fifth minute when she volleyed a cross from five yards out, but Rigby got both hands on it and bobbled it over her head before grabbing it near the goal line.
Even though victory proved to be inches away, the Mustangs were still thrilled with the result.
“It means a lot,” Kentgen said. “It definitely gives us more confidence because we played hard against them.”