Winning its final 15 regular-season contests after a season-opening loss to Lincoln-Way West, Bloom has rarely been tested, piling up a bevy of lopsided wins against outmatched competition.
So when the Blazing Trojans fell behind 1-0 in Wednesday’s playoff opener, they found themselves in an unfamiliar position.
“I think when we gave up a goal everyone was like ‘OK, we have to turn this around now,’” Bloom coach Kelly Gutierrez said. “I was very proud of them for that. They didn’t put their heads down, they fought back.”
No. 8 seed Bloom rallied behind Andreina Hernandez, who scored both her team’s goals in a 2-1 win over No. 9 seed Homewood-Flossmoor in a Class 3A Lincoln-Way North Regional semifinal in Frankfort.
Bloom (16-1) will meet top-seeded Lincoln-Way North in Friday’s final.
Less than three minutes after H-F (7-14-1) took the lead – Lauren Kuchta finding the net off a Lauren Hurley corner kick with 23:37 left in the match – Bloom responded.
On a free kick from 27 yards out along the sideline, Jazmin Aldape sent the ball into the box where Hernandez fought off a pair of defenders to get a touch on it, barely sliding it past lunging H-F goalie Quincy O’Malley.
“I knew it was coming to the far post and I had to make a diagonal run,” Hernandez said. “I just barely got a piece of it and it barely went in. It was lucky.”
The match seemed destined to go to overtime, but Bloom’s Natalia Martinez drew a penalty with 2:45 to go and Hernandez converted the penalty kick for the game-winner.
“I was nervous because I knew if I missed I was letting my whole team down and I couldn’t do that,” Hernandez said. “I always go right on PKs and I saw [O’Malley] leaning that way so I had to change it up a bit and hit it a little to the left and it went in.”
Martinez was contacted from behind in the box, but the call didn’t go over well with H-F.
“They scored off two foul calls,” H-F coach Jim Boswell said. “The first call was legit, the second one wasn’t. The refs definitely took this game away from us.
“Bloom played hard and I’m proud of our girls. We were 2-10 at one point and improved a lot. It’s just tough to see it end like that.”
Bloom’s comeback would not have been possible without the play of Maria Narcisi (three saves), who kept her team in it when H-F was controlling play early in the second half. Her biggest save was on a Sammi Farkos laser with 31:20 to go.
The game was resumed Wednesday after being suspended due to severe weather Tuesday, scoreless in the 23rd minute.