NEW LENOX | Barely three minutes into the Class 2A Lincoln-Way West Sectional title game, Marian Catholic's leading scorer, Hailey Losselyong, nudged a shot wide of Lemont's goal.
Still in the fourth minute, she blasted a shot into the chest of Indians goalkeeper Kelly Fritz.
"Their keeper came up with the save, that was the turning point," Marian coach Nasser Shanhtaji said.
Never mind that more than 76 minutes of soccer remained in what would become a 2-0 Lemont win, earning the Indians (20-3-2) their fourth supersectional berth in six years. Lemont meets host Normal Community West on Tuesday for a shot at returning to state for the first time since a third-place finish in 2011.
"When you're playing against a team like that, and you get an opportunity, you have to capitalize to make them nervous," Shanhtaji said of the top-seeded Indians. "Not being able to capitalize just kind of woke them up."
Thus ended Marian's dream run. The 10th-seeded Spartans (6-13-3) weren't expected to escape No. 7 Crete-Monee in a regional opener, much less subsequent victims Lincoln-Way West (No. 2) and Tinley Park (No. 3).
"To come into the postseason with only three wins and make a run to the sectional final says a lot about the quality of the coaching and the character of the kids there," Lemont coach Rick Prangen said. "(A) team like Marian always make me nervous. They play a tough schedule, so they're used to physical play and playing at a high level even if they don't have a lot of wins."
After Marian's initial push, Lemont responded. Sophomore forward Aleksandra Mihailovic found the left corner of the net from about 30 yards out on the right to give the Indians a 1-0 lead at the 35:35 mark.
The daughter of former North American Soccer League pro Aleks Mihailovic scored on a feed from Northwestern-bound midfielder Kim Jerantowski.
"(Jerantowski), you can see why she's already committed to a Division I school," Shanhtaji said. "She was the difference-maker out there. But our girls played their hearts out."
None more so than Losselyong and keeper Sarah Sieracki, though the latter beat herself up a bit over Mihailovic's goal, conceding she thought it was headed wide, which led to her late break on the ball.
"There was a lot of confusion in front, a lot else I was looking at," she said. "I misjudged it."
There was no more scoring until less than five minutes remained, largely because Sieracki stepped up with three second-half saves. She punched a free kick over the crossbar, caught a header from close range off a corner kick and came up to smother a Mihailovic breakaway effort.
"She had a great day," Prangen said. "She made three important saves to keep them in the game."
Lemont's second goal, with 4:49 left, came off the foot of Reilley Sullivan, after Mihailovic's corner kick pinballed through the box.
Shahtaji greeted the end of the postseason run philosophically.
"It's gratifying," he said. "It makes us proud of them.
"Nobody gave them a chance to get this far. Desire and will got them to this stage."