STERLING – Alaina Sanchez is a defender. She doesn’t get many scoring opportunities. So, when she got the chance Thursday, she jumped at it.
The Sterling senior scored the only goal of the game with 4:27 remaining in the Golden Warriors’ 1-0 win over the Dixon Duchesses in the Northern Illinois Big 12 West clash between arch rivals on a blustery, rainy Thursday evening at Roscoe Eades Stadium.
Sanchez’s goal came off a corner kick by Allie Johnson, whose pass was knocked around a bit before Sanchez charged to put it away, beating Dixon goalkeeper Carly Hartle to the upper left corner.
It was Sanchez’s first varsity goal, Johnson’s first corner kick of the match, and what is believed to be Sterling’s first win over Dixon.
“It was bouncing around a little bit. I was just there to support,” Sanchez said. “It was right there. I was really nervous. I had the feeling I was going to try to get it in the corner, and it went right in the left corner.”
After Rosa Sanchez handled corner kicks throughout the match, Johnson came through on her only one of the night.
“I was trying to arch it into the center of the box and the top,” Johnson said. “That’s where Alaina came in, so it worked out well.”
The Warriors (3-3, 2-1) are enjoying a bit of a renaissance after not winning more than three matches since earning four in 2007.
“It’s very different,” Sterling coach Brian Cebula said. “We haven’t been in this kind of position before. You can tell the girls are oozing with confidence. The seniors this year were freshmen when I took over. It’s kind of special that everything is coming together.”
Dixon (1-4-1, 0-3) had few threats. Its best might have been when Erika Taylor’s shot about 6 minutes into the second half went just over the crossbar and caromed off the football crossbar just behind.
“This is the best I’ve seen from Stering,” said 11th-year Duchesses coach Mahmoud Etemadi, who said it was the Warriors’ first win against Dixon. “We’re a young team. We have a lot of freshmen who are starting. It could have gone either way. We congratulate Sterling. They’ve improved a lot.”
Star of the match: Alaina Sanchez, Sterling, game-winning goal with 4:27 remaining
Key performers: Callie Sinn, Sterling goalkeeper, shutout; Carly Hartle, Dixon goalkeeper, only allowed 1 goal
Up next: Sterling at United Township, 10 a.m. Saturday; Dixon at Alleman, 1:30 p.m. Saturday