DEMOTTE | Boone Grove has taken its girls soccer fans on a roller-coaster ride this season, and the biggest loops and twists came Saturday when the Wolves' faithful burned plenty of calories standing, anticipating and slapping thighs in frustration over a miss.
However, the disappointment is over for the moment, and the ride is still in operation.
The Wolves won their first sectional final in their fourth trip to a championship match, beating Rensselaer 2-1 on Olivia McCafferty’s 79th-minute rebound goal at the Class A Covenant Christian Sectional.
“It’s amazing,” McCafferty said amid the celebration after scoring both Boone goals in the final 19 minutes. “Being that it’s my senior season, this ending is all I could have asked for. This is a big accomplishment, and it’s what my whole career has been leading up to.”
Boone Grove lost last year’s title tilt 2-1 to Argos on a goal with 28 seconds remaining. This time the riders on the coaster left on the satisfying end of a nail-biter. McCafferty, who hit the left post on a breakaway with 9:07 to go, broke free one-on-one, blasted a shot off the goalie and put home the rebound for the winning goal with 1:19 to play.
“I liked that we scored with about a minute left,” McCafferty said. “It’s fitting. We beat Hebron in the sectional after they beat us. We were in a three-way tie for the conference. Rensselaer already beat us this year. The whole season, we’ve had upsets and lost upsets, and here today, it could have gone either way.”
McCafferty, who mainly played defense before this season, now has 24 goals and 21 assists on the season.
Her first goal Saturday came on a three-on-one break and a pass from best friend Amy Guerrero. It went past Bombers keeper Emily Hopkins (9 saves), who is scheduled to be the keeper for McCafferty’s club team this offseason.
The Wolves (13-4) take on Wheeler in the regional on the road next Saturday.
Rensselaer (7-7-3), itself a relative stranger to sectional championship matches, played relentlessly in the first half when Boone Grove had the sun and wind at its back but couldn’t capitalize despite four corner kicks.
“What really happened was our defense eventually broke down,” Rensselaer coach Ernest Watson said. “We let (McCafferty) get behind us, and — woo! — she's fast. We played hard all day, and we had our opportunities.”
After McCafferty scored with 18:05 to go in the game, Rensselaer’s Allison Graves scored on a penalty kick 57 seconds later.
The Bombers had three corner kicks in the final two minutes of the first half but couldn’t execute in the box. Having the favorable goal in the second half increased opportunities but just one — a point-blank shot blocked by a quick-acting Boone defender at the goalmouth — was close.
The match was scoreless at halftime when 11th-year Boone Grove coach Chad Roggow used his voice instead of a dry-erase board.
“At halftime I talked to them about life in general,” Roggow said. “I told them that in pressure situations, you have got to keep your head. Keep your cool when these things come up. You’ll run into those throughout your life, and this is just one of those things that you have to overcome.”