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Schmitz's stunner spurs Streator on to regional win

Streator's Sam Goerne (8) cuts off Sterling's Ellie Gasso during the Lady Bulldogs' 4-1 regional semifinal victory Tuesday over the host Golden Warriors.
Streator's Sam Goerne (8) cuts off Sterling's Ellie Gasso during the Lady Bulldogs' 4-1 regional semifinal victory Tuesday over the host Golden Warriors.

STERLING – Hannah Schmitz was just looking for a pass.

From 30 yards out, the Streator 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 arced 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 narrowly off-target. Throughout the first half, the Bulldogs had more scoring chances than Sterling (4-16-1), ending the half on a 9-3 shot advantage.

Schmitz assisted Sydney Donahue for a 2-0 lead in the 39th minute. Millie 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 the blast and deflected it.

Sterling got in enough second-half shots to even the shot tally somewhat. Streator outshot 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.

The Bulldogs will face another former NCIC foe, Geneseo, for the regional championship Saturday at 11 a.m. The Maple Leafs (16-3) defeated La Salle-Peru in the day’s first semifinal match 9-0, and have shut out opponents in each of their last seven matches while scoring 42 goals. Rachel Daniels scored a hat trick for Geneseo, and Taylor DeSplinter and Kenzie Thompson each scored twice.

“It will be tough competition,” Schmitz said. “If we bring our ‘A’ game and work as a team, we’ll be able to compete.”

Streator coach J.T. Huey noticed that Sterling seemed to have a lot of speed in the match’s first 10 minutes, but much of that was due to the turf.

“They came out in the first 10 minutes with speed, and I kind of panicked,” Bulldogs coach JT Huey said. “Our defense and midfield stepped it up and took control of the game, and we started frustrating Sterling.

“These girls are going to have to show up and play the best game they’ve played all year,” Huey added about their upcoming opponent. “Geneseo will be the toughest competition we’ve seen.”