Twice in the regular season, Lincoln-Way East used big second-half performances to squeak out 7-6 wins over Andrew.
Taking on the T-bolts a third time in Saturday’s Lincoln-Way Central Sectional final, it was more of the same for the Griffins.
East outscored Andrew 5-2 in the second half to pull away for a 9-5 win and earn itsfirst state berth since 2009.
“These have all been tough games,” East coach Ryan Lodes said. “Andrew’s a great team. I told the girls it’s all a matter of making small adjustments. We were able to do that. This is the first sectional championship for all these girls. We have a lot of senior girls who worked hard to get here.”
The balanced Griffins (25-5) got scoring from five players, with Lauren VanderVelde leading the way with four goals. Jill Connolly made 12 saves.
East will take on defending state champion St. Ignatius in a state quarterfinal set for5:45 p.m. Fridayat Stevenson.
Genny McCarthy (3 goals) and Caily Friel (2) scored for Andrew (23-6), which fell short in its bid for its first trip to state.
Clinging to a 4-3 lead in the final minute of the third quarter, the Griffins – after neither team had scored after halftime – went on a 4-0 run to pull away.
Aimee Schaaf scored off a rebound before VanderVelde found the net with 20 seconds left in the third.
VanderVelde opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a power-play goal and Erica Mangia’s goal with2:42left in the match made it 8-3.
“I knew I had to step up and score when no one else was open,” VanderVelde said. “It was great to help my team. We prepared a lot for this and it’s an awesome feeling to win it.”
Andrew was off the mark offensively all game. East’s defense took T-bolts leading scorer Megan Hofer out of the game, and Andrew continuously fired shots high.
“I told the girls that obviously we wanted to get one step further, but they have to be proud that we had the best season we’ve ever had,” Andrew coach Mike Kuziel said. “(East) played great defense and they forced us to shoot high a lot. When we did get shots on goal, (Connolly) was phenomenal.”
Zoe Spada and Haley McCabe added a goal each for East, which finished 12-16 a year ago.
“This is so exciting,” Connolly said. “We’ve worked all these years to come this far. We all really came together this year. It feels amazing.”