SYCAMORE – For 40 minutes, a defensive-minded Sterling girls soccer club was able to hang with Dixon in a Class 2A Sycamore Regional semifinal.
The second half, however, was a different story. The Duchesses turned a close game into a rout, and rolled to an 8-0 win on a sun-splashed Wednesday evening.
Dixon (17-2-1) will take on the host Spartans for a regional title on Friday.
The Duchesses led just 1-0 at halftime, then the floodgates opened.
“We focused more on passing to our feet and going to the outside of the field instead of being all jumbled up in the middle,” said Dixon senior Olivia Dennison, who scored three goals.
Dennison had the lone score of the first half, as she poked in a goal following a corner kick by Madelyn Chesley with 31 minutes, 31 seconds on the clock. The Duchesses had just five shots on goal in the first half, as Sterling focused on defense.
The Golden Warriors’ top offensive threat, sophomore Ellie Gasso, spent the entire half playing defense.
It took a little more than 2 minutes for Dixon to get on the board in the second half. Taylor Harrison got behind the Sterling defense and was was able to finish a nifty pass by Abi Goff. The Duchesses poured it on from there.
With 31:39 to go, Goff dribbled the ball about 30 yards before launching a rocket that curled into the upper-left scorner of the goal. Madison Stegbauer assisted on the play.
Eight minutes later, Dixon scored again on a penalty kick by Goff. It was set up when Harrison was taken down in the box by Sterling defender Maddie Gasso.
Harrison’s second goal of the game followed a minute later, with an assist from Chesley.
Five minutes later, Harrison struck again, with an assist from Goff. It gave Harrison a hat trick, and upped her season goal total to 57.
Dixon made it a mercy-rule game with 14:01 on the clock, as Dennison scored her second goal of the game. Harrison dished her second assist on the play, and the time remaining was sliced in half, to 7 minutes.
The icing on the cake came with 20 seconds to go, on Dennison’s third goal. Brooke Scheidegger assisted on the play.
Sterling’s best chance to score was in game’s sixth minute. Tiara Munoz got behind the Dixon defense and uncorked a shot that eluded goalie Abbie Provo, but missed just left. Karlie Verstraete was just late on the play to poke in the attempt near the goal.
The Golden Warriors (8-15-1) didn’t seriously threaten the rest of the way.
“I was very pleased with our defense,” Dixon defender Avery Fox said. “Ellie Gasso is really tough up top, and being able to stop anyone else that got near our goal was huge for us.”
It was the second win for Dixon against Sterling this season. The Duchesses won 7-0 back on March 26.
“Overall it was a lot different than the first game, though the score didn’t reflect that,” Sterling coach Ali Messina said, “and that’s a testament to how far we’ve come. In the first half, we forced them to make adjustments to us.”
Dixon and Sycamore did not play in the regular season, as a scheduled contest on April 27 at A.C. Bowers Field was canceled due to inclement weather. The Spartans, who beat Rochelle 9-1 in their playoff opener on Tuesday, are 19-0-1, with the lone blemish being a scoreless tie against Freeport.
“There aren’t any nerves on our part,” Dennison said. “We’re going to be ready to play them.”
2A Sycamore Regional semifinal
Dixon 8, Sterling 0
Star of the game: Taylor Harrison, Dixon, 3 goals, 2 assists
Key performers: Olivia Dennison, Dixon, 3 goals; Abi Goff, Dixon, 2 goals, 2 assists
Up next: Class 2A Sycamore Regional championship game, Dixon vs. Sycamore, 5 p.m. Friday