Rachel Pappas nets game-winning goal for Lincoln-Way North

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Rachel Pappas gave a detailed description of her game-winning goal, but her follow-up commentary put it best.

“Goals,” said the Lincoln-Way North sophomore forward, “they’re usually not pretty.”

The Phoenix had several aesthetically pleasing chances turned away Tuesday, but it was Pappas’ shot in the midst of a scramble in the box that was golden in Lincoln-Way North’s 2-1 win over Lincoln-Way East in a Class 3A Andrew sectional semifinal.

Pappas’ 20th goal of the season with 3:55 left in regulation broke a 1-1 tie and sent the top-seeded Phoenix back into the sectional final. Last year Lincoln-Way North lost there 2-1 to Sandburg.

“The ball came across, I was trying to get it but somebody was in the way,” Pappas explained. “I was facing the wrong way and Carly (Marchal) told me to turn around and the ball was right there. I just kind of shot it and it went in.”

Lincoln-Way North (20-3-1), which won a regular-season meeting between the two teams 2-0, knocked on the goal’s doorstep throughout the second half.

Bianca Galassini’s point-blank attempt was denied by diving Griffins keeper Kim Seper, and several shots and headers sailed high or wide. Phoenix coach Michael Murphy had a notion the seal on the goal would break eventually – just not when it did. His team out-shot the opponent 20-1 in the second half.

“I was making sure that nobody on their team would get a breakaway and next thing you know our girls are clapping,” Murphy said. “Give our girls credit. You keep going at it and going at it, sooner or later it comes.”

Lincoln-Way North struck first in the first half. Valen Manns’ throw-in found Galassini in the box, and she knocked in her fourth goal of the playoffs.

The Griffins tied it 1-1 with 25:09 left in the first half, freshman Caroline Kilrea drilling a penalty shot past Bethany Dombkowski.

It was the first playoff goal given up by Dombkowski, who came in with 13 of the Phoenix’s 14 shutouts on the season.

“Again, our defense came up big for us,” Murphy said. “I have to give (Lincoln-Way East) credit. They gave us everything we could handle.”

The Griffins (15-8-2), coming off their first regional title since 2008, were playing short-handed.

Captain Jilian Kilrea was out with a broken foot.

Starting goalkeeper Katie Wilson broke her pinkie a few weeks ago, and then broke her hand the night she was cleared to return. In her absence Seper, a freshman, more than held her own.

“She played well,” Griffins coach Brian Papa said. “Jiminy crickets she kept us in the ballgame.”

Papa, who played just two seniors this year, felt the game would come down to 50/50 balls at midfield. He was disappointed that his team couldn’t match the Phoenix’s physicality in the second half.

“We thought we had a little momentum and they took it right away from us,” Papa said. “They beat us in the middle of the field. If you don’t win 50/50 challenges you’re not going to win.”

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