KANKAKEE — When the postseason rolls around, a couple of plays here or there can be the difference in moving on or going home.
The No. 6-seeded Ottawa girls soccer team had a number of good scoring chances in its Kankakee Class 2A Regional semifinal against No. 4 seed Morris on Tuesday here at Kankakee High School, but unfortunately for the Lady Pirates, each one was stopped short of the goal line.
Morris (6-9-1), who had defeated Ottawa 3-1 back on April 24 at King Field, found the back of the net once in each half to advance to the championship game against top-seeded Dixon with a 2-0 blanking of the Lady Pirates (9-6-1).
"We talked at halftime about the second half being played with the wind in our favor and how we wanted to try and capitalize on that," said Ottawa coach Sean Porter. "In the first half we were trying to force everything through the middle of the field, and it just wasn't there. We wanted to try and use the width of the field more in the second half, but this is a larger field than we are used to playing on, and it seemed like we had a hard time adjusting. We were asking a lot of girls to cover 80 yards in one direction or the other, especially our midfielders, and that is difficult. We did it at times, but it's hard to sustain.
"Their keeper also made two really good saves or the score would have been 2-2. We were fingertips away from tying the game a couple times, but we just didn't get the bounces."
Morris, which held a 20-8 overall shot advantage in the match, including 14-6 on goal, grabbed the lead for good just eight minutes in when Mia Shannon picked up a loose ball off a scramble in front of the net and scored on a short strike. Ottawa had a handful of chances to tie the game in the first half, starting with Reagan Shea's lead pass finding Kaitlin Falaney at the top of the penalty box in the 20th minute, but Falaney's shot was stopped by the rushing Morris keeper.
Katie McGraw and Abby Falaney had quality shots stopped over the next ten minutes, and with under six minutes left, Kaitlin Falaney had her 15-yard shot from the left wing dribble just wide of the far post.
Morris made it 2-0 midway through the second half and then survived a couple of great scoring chances by the Lady Pirates. The first was on a breakaway by Kaitlin Falaney in the 19th minute, which was pushed just wide by the Morris keeper. Then with seven minutes remaining, McGraw's restart at midfield led to a 10-yard shot that was met with a diving stop.
"We accomplished what I thought we could accomplish this season. We didn't quite get to our goal of double-digit wins, but we also had a few games cancelled on us. We ended up in sole possession of second place in the Northern Illinois Big 12 (West), and that was a big goal that the girls wanted.
"We had a hard time at the start of the season in finding our identity. I never like using the term bittersweet, but I really feel that way about this team because we really started to really play as a group the last couple weeks of the season. ... You could tell they had a little bit more joy playing together, but now it's over."