Montini rallies to take third place

Montini midfielder Sawyer White spent her last year trying to be the best leader she could be.

She set the bar high.

White capped off a stellar high school athletic career on Saturday by helping the Broncos win their first state trophy in women’s soccer. She converted the first penalty in the shootout in Montini’s 3-2 win over Normal U-High in the Class 1A third place match at North Central College.

White, who finished the season with 10 goals and 19 assists, will play soccer and basketball at Illinois Wesleyan. She was captain in both sports at Montini this year.

“In basketball and soccer, I had some really good leaders as past captains,” White said. “I was just taking pieces of these captains and kind of putting them together and creating the kind of captain I wanted to be.

“I think it’s really important to include and be a great captain for all those girls who are coming up because you want to set a good example and improve the program for the future.”


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

White accomplished this mission. The Broncos (14-5-1) had never won a section before this season, but advanced to the state finals with a roster of 12 freshmen, six of whom started.

“Sawyer is an amazing kid and the girls are all drawn to her,” Montini’s trainer Kate Perry said. “She brought everyone together and created the family atmosphere.”

Junior forward Maren Hoovel, who scored 26 goals to lead the Broncos for the second straight season, served as co-captain with White and senior defenseman Anna Carrigan this season.

“She’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever had in any sport,” Hoovel said. “I loved having the chance to play with her in both sports for the past two years.”

Like White, Hoovel also plays basketball. She sat out this winter as she recovered from a torn ACL suffered a year ago but returned to the football pitch better than ever and scored twice on Saturday after Alyssa Brown and Alison Heller scored on breakaways to give Normal U-High (16-11) a 2-0 lead in the first half.

Hoovel put the Broncos on the board with 12:40 left in the first half. She beat a defender into the left side of the box before pushing a right-footed shot inside the right post for her 25th goal of the season.

Even so, Montini was on the verge of defeat when White kicked in a throw-in towards the middle of the Pioneers penalty area. Hoovel arrived in the middle of a scrum and rolled a shot inside the right post to tie the game at 2-2 with 2:50 left in regulation.

“Sawyer threw his big throw-in and I was just fighting for it,” Hoovel said. “There were really a lot of people in the box.

“I really couldn’t see anything, I just kind of kicked.”

The ball passed U-High goalkeeper Olivia Checchi, although it took Hoovel a moment to realize it.

“I’ll be honest,” Hoovel said. “I didn’t even see the ball go into the goal.

“I just heard everyone cheering and I was really excited. I was really happy for us.”

The Broncos were even happier after winning the ensuing shootout 4-2. White, rookie Naomy Gonzalez, Hoovel and junior Jillian Parrilli converted shots on goal for Montini, while freshman goaltender Natalie Gartland stopped two of U-High’s four attempts.

Perry, who is the assistant coach for the North Central women’s team, said it was a surreal moment.

“This place means a lot to me, so to have the opportunity to coach here with a different team, the girls kind of rallied around that because they knew I worked here,” Perry said. “The start of the school year has been great.

“Our motto throughout the playoffs is ‘Leave nothing to chance’. They did it today. The girls made history.

The Broncos’ unprecedented success is the result of excellent leadership and a strong work ethic.

“This team has worked extremely hard this year,” White said. “Over the past few months, we’ve created this fun environment where we can learn and work hard, but also have fun at the same time.

“It’s really linked to our games where we’re extremely happy for each other all the time, doing whatever it takes to help our team to victory.”

Getting a dramatic victory in their last game of the year made it even more special.

“It was amazing,” Hoovel said. “I was so proud of our whole team.

“We didn’t give up. We kept fighting. We knew we could do it if we worked hard enough and gave it our all, and we did.”

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