AUSTIN – McKenna Chestolowski got pretty much everything she wanted Thursday night in the Section 1A girls soccer championship.

The biggest item checked off for the Lourdes junior was a return trip to the state tournament. That happened as the top-seeded Eagles beat No. 3 seed Byron 3-0 for the section title.

“This is so exciting,” said Chestolowski, whose two goals against Byron were a major contributor to Lourdes advancing for the second straight year. “Our team is like a big family. And to be going back to state is the best feeling in the world.”

Lourdes gave an immediate hint that it was going to roll to this win.

Just 1 minute, 14 seconds into the first half, Jordyn Berg drilled a corner kick that Lourdes teammate Chestolowski headed into the Byron net.

“That quick goal kind of took the wind out of our sails,” Byron coach Jeremy Baumbach said. “We struggle to score (averaging just two goals per game), so that early Lourdes goal hurt.”

Just like that, Chestolowski had ticked off one of the three items on her wish list.

“I’d been wanting to get a header goal all year,” she said, “and I’d been wanting to get a long goal.”

Her second wish (long goal), just like her state-tournament desire, would be fulfilled later in the contest.

But the one-sided score that had been hinted at early took awhile to materialize. Lourdes, though it spent the bulk of the first half in Byron’s end, managed just one more shot on goal the next 38 minutes.

“I didn’t feel like it was going to be a one-sided game at all after that first early goal,” said Lourdes 22nd-year coach Sarah Groven, who is state bound for the ninth time. “Byron is a great rival and they always play really fired up under Jeremy Baumbach.”

It wasn’t until five minutes into the second half that the Eagles had any feeling of comfort. That’s when Chestolowski, a junior midfielder, connected again for Lourdes.

This time Chestolowski was nowhere near the net when she let it go. She cranked on the ball from 30 yards away with her right foot, her zooming offering from the middle of the field sailing in line-drive fashion just out of the reach of Byron goalie Kayla En.

Wish No. 2 had been granted for Chestolowski. She had her “long goal.”

It was Chestolowski’s 13th goal this season and seemed to suck some life from the Bears, who spent so little time in any kind of scoring position.

After that, Lourdes had its way with the Bears (12-3-3). The Eagles kept Byron goalie En much busier than she wanted to be down the stretch. Lourdes had eight shots on goal the second half, most of those coming from the 18 minute mark on.

“They are a phenomenal team,” Baumbach said. “They have so many weapons and so much overall speed. They will represent our section really well at state.”

One of those second-half shots on goal was delivered by Bella Talbot. The junior was at the right place at the right time with 18:26 left in regulation, collecting a ricocheted shot in close by teammate Alyssa Ustby and gently placing it into the vacated left side of the net to give Lourdes a 3-0 lead.

Lourdes wouldn’t score again, but it never stopped pressuring the Bears.

The Eagles now take a 15-1-2 record into next week’s state tournament.

LOURDES 3, BYRON 0

Byron 0 0 — 0

Lourdes 1 2 — 3

Byron: Goalie: Kayla En 7 saves.

Lourdes: McKenna Chestolowski 2 goals; Jordyn Berg 1 assists; Bella Talbot 1 goal. Goalie: Lauren Nickels 5 saves.

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Sports Reporter

Pat covers tennis, girls basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and baseball. He also writes about Gophers football and basketball, and the Timberwolves. He’s been reporting for the Post Bulletin since 1994.

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