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Girls Soccer State Finals | De La Salle takes fourth in fist state finals appearance

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By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Taking the field at the state finals for the first time in program history, De La Salle junior midfielder Imani Coleman did her best to soak in the feeling.

“It was a big moment,” Coleman said of that moment on June 2. “We didn’t really know what it was going to be like but we were excited for the environment. We’re proud of what we’ve done so far and we just wanted to try to do our best out there.”

The Meteors battled through a pair of tough losses at state — falling 4-1 to eventual champion Chatham Glenwood in the semifinals and 5-1 to Crystal Lake Central in the third-place game — and finished fourth in Class 2A.

The finish earned them the first state trophy in any girls sport at De La Salle.

“It’s just really exciting,” junior midfielder Samantha Velasco said. “To be honest, it’s just great being here. Our team bonding has been great.”

De La Salle (17-5-5) fell into a quick early hole in the semifinal as Glenwood (22-4-1) scored just 83 seconds into the match, with Rowann Law finding the net off a free kick from Erin Mansfield.

“It’s really tough to give up a goal that early,” De La Salle coach Carlos Nunez said. “We gave them that opportunity and they made us pay for it. That’s going to happen against good teams.”

The Meteors kept it at 1-0 until Haden Vlcek scored on a pair of headers, one late in the first half and one early in the second half, to give the Titans a comfortable 3-0 lead.

It was 4-0 before Velasco broke the shutout, scoring her second goal of the season on a free kick.

“We’re always looking for her to shoot even more,” Nunez said of Velasco. “We hope she can do some big things for us next season.”

Coleman said it was tough for the Meteors to prepare for a team like Glenwood, which is located over 200 miles from Chicago, just south of Springfield.

“We tried to do our homework, but obviously we’re not from there,” Coleman said. “We can’t just go out and watch their game. But we knew the players who were some of their top scorers and figured they’d get the ball a lot. They did and we tried to slow that down, but that’s easier said than done.”

Senior goalkeeper Emily Samuels made eight saves for the Meteors. One of four seniors on the De La Salle roster, Samuels took the loss hard.

“I’m a senior, so usually I wouldn’t be worked up,” Samuels said. “But being here at state, it was hard to lose. I accepted it, but knowing these are my last moments on this team, I want to do my best and I feel like I played well, but I didn’t do the best I could have.”

In the third-place game, Crystal Lake Central (19-4) scored three goals in the first half and built a 4-0 lead before junior defender Lauren Torres scored for De La Salle on a penalty kick with 16:53 to play.

Samuels had eight saves.

Samuels knows the Meteors have come a long way. The program had not even won a regional title prior to the 2022 season.

“Coming in my freshman year, which was the COVID year, I would never thought we would have gotten to this point,” Samuels said. “I feel like I’ve really grown goalie-wise and with emotions and mentally. Each year we get better and better and I have no doubt that even though I won’t be there, whoever the goalie is, they’re going to be back at state again.”

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