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Girls Soccer: Morton starts strong, but falls just short of Windy City Ram Classic semifinals

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Morton’s girls soccer team fell just short of a 3-0 week and a spot in the Final Four of the Windy City Ram Classic.

But the Mustangs put up a strong fight against host Lincoln-Way East on the morning of March 19, and they saw no reason to be discouraged after a 2-1 loss in the quarterfinals of the 32-team tournament.

“We played good,” Morton coach Jim Bageanis said. “We’ve been moving the ball. Even though we lost this game, I think we moved the ball better than we did the first two games.

“I like that we’re being creative with the ball. We’re able to hold it and create. We’re not just kicking it up forward or just playing long ball. We’re creating our own chances. Defensively, I think we’re getting better every game. We just have to keep improving from week to week.”

Morton (2-1) created some good chances early, using its speed to test the defense of the Griffins (3-0).

The Mustangs put four shots on goal in the first half, but all were stopped by Lincoln-Way East goalkeeper Lindsay Fortier.

They also had three other shots go just wide or high of the net.

“We knew they were a good team coming in,” Bageanis said of Lincoln-Way East. “They’re a very fundamentally sound team. We hung on in the first half and we actually had a few good chances.

“We’ve got to take our chances as gold because we don’t get them very often like that. Charisma (Rosales) had a couple times where she got in but, unfortunately, we didn’t put any away. We’ve got to put those on net.”

Rosales had a couple good looks from inside 25 yards in the first half but fired wide on both shots.

Andrea Aguirre tested Fortier with a pair of shots on goal from distance, Fortier stopping both attempts from beyond 35 yards.

Rosales and Mayte Gongora also had shots on goal in the half.

“The first half we played really good,” senior midfielder Esmeralda Bautista said. “It was 0-0, it was a really good game. Our defense was going good, and our forwards and middles, too. We were communicating really well.”

After going to halftime scoreless, Lincoln-Way East picked things up in the second half.

Freshman Kara Waishwell scored in the opening minute of the half and Bre Herlihy made it 2-0 with 20:13 to play.

“In the second half, we were a little more gassed,” Bageanis said. “We were just trying to keep up with them. We gave up that goal right at the beginning of the half, but we didn’t quit. We were playing hard the whole time. We got lucky to get that PK at the end and that made it interesting.”

The penalty kick came with 4:35 to go when the Griffins were called for a handball in the box.

Bautista stepped up and buried a line drive inside the left post.

“I was really scared,” Bautista said. “I’m not going to lie. Me and the goalie were looking right at each other’s eyes. I heard my teammates saying, ‘Just calm down, calm down.’ I just focused on the game and did what I had to do.”

The Mustangs could not find the equalizing goal in the final four minutes but were happy with how they battled until the end.

The loss followed a pair of 4-0 wins.

Aguirre, Bautista, Gongora and Aaliyah Leanos scored in the tournament-opening victory over Joliet West, while Rosales had two goals with Aguirre and Leanos one each in a win over Tinley Park.

“Our first game, we were really nervous because it was our first time playing together, but we did good,” Bautista said. “The second game, we played good again and communicated more and more. This game, I think we played even better.

“I think these next games up, we’ll keep getting better as a team.”

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