Lincoln-Way North has piled up plenty of hardware over the last four seasons, winning four straight SouthWest Suburban Red championships, four regional titles and a sectional championship.
The Phoenix, though, had never won a regular-season tournament before Saturday. The team’s three senior starters made sure that would change.
Brenna Stremlau scored the game’s only goal and Bethany Dombkowski — aided by a backline anchored by fellow senior Lexi Cesario — posted the shutout as North topped Glenbard East 1-0 in the championship of the Windy City Ram Classic at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting this,” Dombkowski said. “We have a lot of new girls this year. To see how well we’re playing and to come play here and win a championship, it’s really great.”
In an evenly matched affair, a tremendous strike from Stremlau proved to be the difference for the Phoenix (5-0).
She took a free kick from 35 yards out and blasted a high shot inside the far post and past Rams goalie Haley Lydon in the 22nd minute.
“The first couple of kicks I took weren’t going where I wanted them to go,” Stremlau said. “I figured I’d try to kick that one high and see where the wind took it. It felt so awesome to be in a stadium like this and score a goal.”
Glenbard East (4-1-1) threatened to net the equalizer, but Dombkowski was up to the challenge.
Her biggest save came with just over 10 minutes left in the match. Taylor Hallcox slipped a pass to Jordyn Fulton in the box and Fulton ripped a laser at the net. Dombkowski was able to block the shot with her body.
“I saw her start to wind up and the shot came at me in a bit of an awkward position,” Dombkowski said. “I had to dive, but it wasn’t one where I had to dive and stretch so I just kind of threw my body at it and pushed it away.”
For Dombkowski, the win brought a sense of redemption.
“I played here over the summer with my club team and had a really bad game,” she said. “I was really nervous, but once I made the first save and took my first punt, I knew it’d be OK.”
Dombkowski was named the tournament’s top goalkeeper and teammate Rachel Pappas the Most Valuable Player.
Lydon made three saves for Glenbard East.
“It was an even game and (Stremlau) made a great shot,” Glenbard East coach Kent Overbey said. “We had to win four games to get here, and playing here was a great experience for us.”