Word had it Centennial midfielder Lauren Molinaro was a little banged up going into last night's Class 3A-4A West region final against South Carroll.
You would have never known.
Molinaro scored twice, assisted on Stacie Tokasz's game-winning goal and controlled the middle of the field throughout, leading the No. 4 Eagles to a 3-1 win over previously undefeated and sixth-ranked South Carroll.
It was the fourth time in five years Centennial has knocked South Carroll out of the playoffs. The defending state champion Eagles (12-3-1) advance to the state playoffs, while South Carroll's finishes at 15-1.
For a while, it looked as if last night's game was going to be a carbon copy of Centennial's 1-0 win last year in the first round of the region finals.
But that all changed when South Carroll's Shannan Henley tied the game at 1 -- scoring on a header after a direct kick from Carrie Tamburo hit the post -- 14 minutes into the second half.
Soon after, Centennial, and Molinaro in particular, took charge.
"My shin got hit in the Howard game [region semifinal] and I kept icing it, and it was a little sore this week in practice, but tonight it wasn't bothering me," Molinaro said.
"I was a little worried, actually a lot worried after they tied the game. All I knew was I didn't want the season to be over."
The Eagles continually pushed forward with a strong South Carroll defense doing all it could to withstand the pressure.
Finally, with just under 10 minutes left, Molinaro kept control of the ball after falling down before sending a square ball to Tokasz just outside the 18-yard mark.
The freshman took a quick look before finding the top left corner of the South Carroll goal.
"I was just thinking shoot," Tokasz said. "The coaches always tell us when you're around the 18, shoot the ball."
Molinaro added an insurance goal moments later on a penalty kick.
South Carroll coach Jim Horn said it wasn't meant to be.
"[Centennial] had fantastic skills and speed," he said. "They were the first team we saw this season that was able to match up with us in speed."
After meeting in the first round of the playoffs last season, Horn was pleased to see the two teams meet in the region finals, where both teams belonged.
Centennial coach Dave Greenberg was impressed with his team's poise against a good South Carroll team, particularly after the Cavaliers got even. Sweeper Tania Riismandel particularly stood out last night defensively for the Eagles.
She continually got to South Carroll's through balls before anyone else.
Molinaro gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead in the game's 17th minute.