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Girls soccer: Lincoln-Way West, Lockport play to a draw

LOCKPORT – As the regular portion of the girls soccer season ends, Lincoln-Way West and Lockport are both hopeful that they’ve positioned themselves well for playoff success.

The Warriors and Porters got one final chance to get in a match before next week’s postseason when they squared off Wednesday. Afterward, both had reason to be feeling upbeat since they played to a 1-1 nonconference draw.

Lockport got a goal from Lauren Pikulski in the 35th minute, and West answered with a score from Samantha Sarna in the 38th minute, and neither could get the upper hand after that.

It was the first goal allowed in four matches by the Warriors (12-6-2). Savina Filip, Kate Honan, Olivia Judge and Sarna have anchored a back line that has yielded only 12 goals and helped keeper Erin Toomey to record 13 shutouts on the season.

“We had a huge slump in the beginning of the season, but our seniors stepped up and said, ‘We need to get out of this,’ and it worked, since we’re a team and we’re playing really good, “Sarna said. “Our defense has become really solid. And we really like to have fun. On our way here, we’re screaming as we sing, and we all get along well, and it’s just a fun team to be on.”

Things will get fun for coach Jeff Theiss’ Warriors if they can win at the Lincoln-Way Central Regional, where they are the fourth seed and the rival Knights are the No. 5 seed. West has won three-straight regionals and four in the past five years.

“It’s been a quality last four games,” Theiss said. “Lockport has a lot of speed, and I thought that we did a great job of putting early pressure on the ball. The girls were stingy in the back, like they’ve been all season long. Lockport switched the point of attack, and both Olivia and Samantha were very strong in the air, and that nullified a lot of dangerous opportunities. We had some good looks from outside the box, but the shots just weren’t on today. Tactically we’re there, we just need to do a little better job finishing, and this team can make a run.”

It was senior day for the Porters (10-6-3), who honored seniors Madisyn Hannion, Jamie Hansen, Brooke Janeczek, Sylvia Kordaczka, Allison Polinski and Kelly Travis. They will play at home at least once more in their own regional tournament.

“We’ve really coming together as a team and have improved throughout the season,” Hannion said. “Everybody has their own strengths, and we all work together with the other players on the team. We have a good chance if we play with intensity and believe in ourselves. We never want to lose on our home field, so we’ll try to keep it that way.”

Porters coach Todd Elkei knows that winning the regional and advancing to their own sectional will be difficult with Plainfield North and Neuqua Valley on the horizon, but he believes his team already has played to the level they’ll need to in order to have a chance.

“Hopefully, we can increase our speed of play and be a little more effective in the final third if we want to do anything in the playoffs,” Elkei said. “If we play with heart and play like we can, then we’ll be in the games. We’re getting better as we go along, and when our girls play with confidence, they’re one of the better teams around. We played our first game in Iowa against Waunakee, Wisconsin, and I was so impressed with the way we played. It was awesome. The key is getting them to believe that they can play like that day in and day out.”

In the first half, Lockport received good chances from Stephanie Quigley, Jenifer Lotoza, Allyson Fischer, Hansen and Pikulski before the latter briefly gave the hosts a lead.

After the Warriors threatened with nice efforts from Breanna Bembenek, Sara Loichinger and Honan, they got the equalizer after Carissa Knezz found Sarna, who fired in a liner.

In the second half, Madison Mikalauski, Bembenek and Loichinger had the best chances for West, while the Porters countered with threats from Pikulski, Latoza and Hansen. But neither side was able to connect to keep it even after 80 minutes.

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