Normal Community was as advertised.
“They’re terrific,” Pekin girls soccer coach Edgar Sandoval said Saturday, shortly after the Dragons lost 5-0 to the Iron in the Class 3A Pekin Regional championship game on a sunny morning at Coal Miners Park.
“Four of their five goals came on perfect shots to the corner of the net,” Sandoval said. “And they play very fast. One or two touches up the field. It’s tough to keep up with that for 40 minutes.
“They’ll make a run in the state playoffs. They’re that good.”
Next for Normal Community (19-4-2) is a sectional this week hosted by the Iron.
Pekin (13-8) saw its season come to a close Saturday.
It was a good spring for the Dragons, who came into the season trying to make up for the loss of six senior starters to graduation and finished third in the Mid-Illini Conference before advancing to the regional finals.
“We lost a lot of minutes from the previous three to four years in those senior starters,” Sandoval said. “I’m proud of our girls for maintaining our program’s level of success this season. We gave a good effort against Normal Community. We just ran into a state-level team.”
Carlyn Steffens (two goals, two assists), Ryann Anderson (two goals, one assist), Grace Blair (goal) and Katy Quinn (goal) put Normal Community on the scoreboard against Pekin.
Goalie Emma Spader made six saves, none better than a diving stop on a shot by Pekin’s Allie Scally with about 12 minutes left in the first half and Normal Community holding a 2-0 lead.
“If the Pekin girl scores on that shot, it’s 2-1 and a different game,” said Normal Community coach Matt Chapman.
“Spader is a great goalie,” Sandoval said. “If you score on her, you’ve earned it.”
Normal Community struck quickly Saturday, scoring twice before the game was 14 minutes old.
“We knew we were playing on Pekin’s home field, and they’d play with a lot of pride,” Chapman said. “They also have some dangerous weapons. So we started the game with a mindset that we needed to take control of the play. We did that.”
Chapman thinks his team is ready for a deep run in the state playoffs.
“We beginning to play our best soccer of the season,” he said.
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.