ROCHELLE — Sydney Thorne never thought she would score four goals in a high school soccer match, but that’s exactly what happened when the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity team kicked off the Interstate 8 Conference tournament against LaSalle-Peru on Wednesday.
The sophomore forward found the net twice in the first half, helping the third-seeded Lady Hubs take a 5-3 halftime lead over the sixth-seeded Cavaliers in a back-and-forth offensive battle. Rochelle shut the LaSalle-Peru attack down during the second half, where Thorne converted her third and fourth goals of the match to seal a 7-3 victory over the Cavaliers. Rochelle (6-7, 4-2 Interstate 8) will face Sycamore on the road in the semifinal round on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
“I think we’re really starting to connect as a team,” Thorne said. “We’re much more aware of where our teammates are on the field and scoring four goals was a real confidence booster for me. Seeing how all of my teammates contributed to each of our goals was a great feeling.”
Despite conceding the first goal of the match, Rochelle recovered with back-to-back goals during the ninth and tenth minutes. Thorne cashed in the equalizer before freshman midfielder Makayla Lara converted the first of her three goals in the match to give the Lady Hubs a 2-1 advantage. LaSalle-Peru immediately responded in the 12th minute, but Rochelle bounced back once again when Thorne tapped in a pass from the right corner during the 21st minute.
“Our passing has been a lot better and we’ve worked a lot on improving our communication,” Lara said. “We’re a lot more prepared before each match and we’ve learned how to play with each other, which helps because we expect our teammates to be in certain areas on the field.”
LaSalle-Peru’s third and final goal of the match came during the 25th minute, tying the score at 3-3 before Rochelle tallied five unanswered goals to close out the victory. The Lady Hubs regained control in the 37th minute, when Lara blasted a left-footed shot from well beyond the Cavalier box that carried with the wind and landed behind the LaSalle-Peru goalkeeper. Lara followed with her third goal of the match in the 40th minute to complete the hat trick.
“Sycamore has a fast team and they pass the ball really well, but they run a lot of the same plays, so I think we’ll have a better chance to stop them this time around,” Lara said.
Leading 5-3 entering the second half, Rochelle continued to attack the LaSalle-Peru defense. Senior defender Lizbeth Milan capitalized on a breakaway opportunity during the 48th minute, rolling a through pass down the middle of the field that Thorne took all the way to the Cavalier net. The Lady Hubs iced the win during the 64th minute, where Thorne took a pass near the top of the LaSalle-Peru box and pounded a right-footed shot into the left side of the Cavalier net.
Rochelle outshot LaSalle-Peru 30-9 and 17-6 in shots on goal. Lara finished with 11 shots and seven shots on goal, while junior midfielder Mavi Avila added six shots and three shots on goal. Sophomore Danica Ward recorded three saves in net for the Lady Hub defense in the win.