STERLING – Hannah Schmitz was just looking for a pass.
From 30 yards out, the Streator sophomore center midfielder blasted a ball forward toward the Sterling net in the 26th minute. Turns out, the kick had a little more oomph to it.
Schmitz’s kick arched behind Sterling keeper Tiara Munoz and into the net for Streator’s first goal of a 2A Sterling Regional semifinal Tuesday against the host Golden Warriors.
Momentum swung Streator’s way after that, and it led to a 4-1 win at the Roscoe Eades soccer pitch.
“I kind of just hit it, and hoped for the best,” Schmitz said. “I thought it was a field goal.
“I just looked up, and I was like, ‘Wow, it went in.’”
The Bulldogs (12-4-1) had a pair of strong scoring chances in the 22nd and 23rd minutes, but kicks from Shannon Paton and Alyssa Eutsey were just off-target. Throughout the first half, the Bulldogs had more scoring chances than Sterling (4-16-1), ending the half on a 9-3 shooting advantage.
Schmitz assisted Sydney Donahue for a 2-0 lead in the 39th minute. Mile Dean upped the lead to 3-0 on a 7-yard kick. The momentum was too much for Sterling to overcome.
“We let their one goal get to us more than we probably should have,” Sterling freshman forward Ellie Gasso said. “That was a crazy goal, that was a one-in-a-million shot.”
Gasso had the Golden Warriors’ best scoring chance in the first half. In the 38th minute, Gasso faced Bulldogs keeper Emma Harris one-on-one, but Harris positioned herself squarely in front of Gasso’s blast and deflected it.
Sterling got in enough second-half shots to even the shot tally somewhat; Streator out-shot the Warriors 10-8 (6-4 on-target).
“The toughest part was that the girls knew that it was an even-matched game, and that’s what frustrated them,” Sterling coach Alexandra Miller said. “We let one in, and all of a sudden it became two, then three.”
Ashley McCurdy scored Streator’s final goal in the 48th minute.
Sierra Sotelo scored Sterling’s final goal of the season in the 71st minute off a pass from fellow senior teammate Kerry Mullen. The shot was from about 15 yards out, up the middle.
“If we would have just taken the score of the second half, it would have been 1-1,” Sotelo said. “We just discouraged ourselves early on.”
Sterling had a tough start to the season with a long losing streak, but picked itself up to exit with a few wins.
“Early on in the season, people knew our record wasn’t the best,” said Sotelo, who will take her soccer talents to Aurora University next season. “As the season grew, I feel like everyone brought something to the table – every player, not just a couple.”
Miller thought her team could have done so much more if it weren’t for the injury bug.
“My heart hurts for this team because they have suffered through a lot of injuries early on,” Miller said. “We were constantly having to learn to adjust, and as soon as we found our stride, someone would get hurt. My heart hurts for this team because I think they could have found a lot more success had we not faced those injuries.”
2A Sterling Regional semifinal
Streator 4, Sterling 1
Star of the match: Ashley McCurdy, Streator, goal (48’), 2 assists
Key performers: Hannah Schmitz, Streator, goal (26’); Sierra Sotelo, Sterling, goal (71’)