By Anthony Jones
With a little over 16 minutes to be played in the first half, sophomore Laney Harshany launched one of her signature flip throws into the box. From there, senior Gracie Giacoletto found the ball in the air and drove the ball into the net to put the Lady Knights up 1-0 in their State Championship game against Joliet Catholic.
Knight’s head coach Matt Bettlach said after the game of Giacoletto’s scoring effort,“Gracie can be the shortest player on the field and she can be the tallest. She’s so aggressive on corner kicks and those flip throws. I think she scored 4 of those recently, so she knows what to do.”
The IHSA Class 2A title game was still far from being over after the Lady Knights took a 1-0 advantage. Led by Division I signee Morgan Furmaniak, the opposing Angels offense put consistent pressure on Triad’s defense.
The constant battle between the Lady Knight’s defense and Joliet Catholic’s offense was strength on strength for the two teams. Throughout their season, the Angels offense had only been shut out once entering the title game. They also entered hot off a 7-1 victory over St. Ignatius in their state semifinals match.
Triad’s defense had racked up an impressive resume as well. Throughout the season, they had only surrendered three goals. The team also entered with a streak of 14 consecutive shutouts.
Despite several promising threats for both teams throughout the remainder of the game, Triad’s 1-0 lead help through the rest of the game. The close margin was no stranger to a Lady Knights squad that won three of their final games by a score of 1-0.
Bettlach explained the key to Triad emerging victorious in so many tight matchups, “Grit and determination. These girls just did down and they did everything humanly possible to keep that ball from crossing our end line. Our backs did great, our keepers did great. Overall grit and determination.”
Earning the shutout in net for Triad, twin sisters Kendall and Reagan Chigas both played a half during the title match. Senior captains Savannah Stauffer and Emily Rosenthal made several key defensive plays to shut down promising scoring attempts. Stauffer proved especially crucial to the winning effort as she beared much of the responsibility of covering Joliet Catholic’s star forward Furmaniak.
Now having won their third state title in ten seasons, the Lady Knights continue to build their resume as a top team in Illinois. The team’s win moved them to 24-0-1 on the year, marking the first time Triad finished a season undefeated. Their three goals allowed in a season is also a new best for the storied program.
“I don’t want to offend teams from the past, but you can quote me that this is probably the best team.” Bettlach said of his 2021 squad’s rankings of teams he has coached.
In the two classifications for the State Finals, other local teams found success. Althoff Catholic claimed victory in the 1A title game and the O’Fallon Panthers won in 3A. The Lady Knights played both of those teams during the regular season and defeated them, helping solidify their case as the best in Illinois.
Bettlach said of O’Fallon and Altholff’s success in the IHSA State Finals, “Two very great historic soccer teams, competitive programs. For them to be up here with them is pretty special.”
Earlier in the week, Triad defeated two other opponents to advance to the championship game. On June 14, they took down a previously undefeated Chatham Glenwood team 2-0 with goals from Avery Bohnensteihl and Giacoletto. Then the day before their title bout, they took down a St.Viator squad 1-0, with Harshany blasting a shirt from deep for their lone score.
Bettlach also gave thanks to their fans who made the several hour trip to support them in their title game, “Thank you to the town of Troy for coming up and giving us support. We appreciate it.”