Lady Knights score huge win over Iroquois to end regular season

Eisenhower’s Rachel Frederick (3) steers the ball away from Iroquois’ Courtney Kegerreis during the first half of their Region 3 showdown on Tuesday. Eisenhower earned a huge 3-1 win to secure second place in the region.

It might have been the last game of the regular season, but the Eisenhower Lady Knights are already in playoffs mode.

Senior Caroline Smelko broke a scoreless tie in the 52nd minute against Iroquois, and EHS went on to win, 3-1.

With the win, the two teams finish in a tie for second place

in Region 3 at 5-2-1, with Eisenhower holding the tiebreaker.

The difference? Eisenhower will now play Kennedy Catholic (4-9) in the first round of the District 10 Class 1A playoffs instead of Mercer (12-3-1).

“Huge win,” said Eisenhower coach Diana Elmquist. “I’m super-proud of the girls. They stepped up in the second half and got to the ball quicker.”

Eisenhower’s Patricia Bortz (14) steers the ball away from Iroquois’ Karina Mathis during the first half of their Region 3 showdown on Tuesday. Eisenhower earned a huge 3-1 win to secure second place in the region.

Both teams generated several scoring chances in the first half, but neither was able to breakthrough. In many ways, it was much like the first meeting of the season, a 1-0 win for the Braves.

Eisenhower (10-5-2) began to assert itself offensively in the second half. Leah Peterson had a strong shot on goal that was stopped minutes before Iroquois got called for holding an Eisenhower attacker in the box, leading to Smelko’s penalty kick.

Smelko buried the PK, but just 1:09 later, Iroquois (11-4-1) tied the game, courtesy of Cassidy Shannon.

The Lady Knights weren’t phased in the slightest.

They continued to pressure the Iroquois backline, which paid off when freshman Elley Eastman fired a perfect pass to Peterson, who gave EHS a 2-1 lead with 14:32 remaining in the game.

“We got good contributions from everyone,” Elmquist said. “There isn’t anybody on the field that didn’t touch the ball and have a major impact.”

Freshman Cassie Smelko was ultra-aggressive in the second half, and it paid off when she stole the ball from an Iroquois defender and buried a shot past Braves’ keeper Desiree Meola less than two minutes after Peterson’s goal to make it 3-1.

“We were definitely faster to the ball,” said Elmquist, referring to the difference between the first meeting between the two teams. “They controlled the ball better than we did last time and we adjusted from that. We adjusted to their style of play and really worked beforehand on what we knew they did.”

The Eisenhower defense, led by seniors Rachel Frederick and Hope Hefright, as well as Ava Nizzi and keeper Faith Johnson, was superb, a great sign as they head into the playoffs.

Official brackets should be released later this week by District 10.

“It’s huge going into the playoffs,” Elmquist said. “It gives us a positive feeling, and is just huge mentally.”