Home Sports A penalty kick and a post: Lewis recruit Mariana Pinto reflects on Benet’s second-place finish in Class 2A. ‘What we’ve done is amazing.’

A penalty kick and a post: Lewis recruit Mariana Pinto reflects on Benet’s second-place finish in Class 2A. ‘What we’ve done is amazing.’

by staff

At a time when tears would have been understandable, Benet’s Mariana Pinto was all smiles.

The senior forward’s sunny disposition was on full display as the Redwings accepted their medals and the Class 2A second-place trophy at North Central College in Naperville.


The Lewis-bound Pinto, so reliable in leading Benet in scoring and assists this spring, got the Redwings to the brink of their second state championship in three seasons.

But her potential game-tying penalty kick hit the left post with 4:17 remaining in the second half Saturday and defending state champion Troy Triad hung on for a 1-0 win.


“That’s the way soccer works,” Pinto said. “The greatest players miss their moments or they make history, so it’s all a part of the game.

“What we’ve done is amazing, so there’s no reason to be sad.”

There was no reason to think Pinto, who finished the season with 25 goals and 13 assists, wouldn’t come through when senior midfielder Katie Lewellyan was knocked down in the box for Benet (22-5).

Lewellyan was the only remaining player from the 2019 state title game for the Redwings, who scored the tying goal with 1:46 left in regulation before beating Wauconda 2-1 in overtime.

Was she thinking of that moment when she got fouled?

“Yeah, I was,” Lewellyan said.

Triad goalkeeper Reagan Chigas guessed wrong on Pinto’s shot, but the ball struck the left post.

Junior forward Anna Casmere actually beat a defender to the rebound for the Redwings but missed a shot wide under pressure.


Benet coach Gerard Oconer was as shocked as everyone else about the near-miss.

“She’s made all of her penalty kicks throughout the entire season, our leading goal scorer, so you have every confidence that she’s going to make it,” Oconer said of Pinto. “That’s just the cruelty of the game sometimes.

“You need a little bit of luck. In 2019, we had that little bit of luck and unfortunately (Saturday) we just didn’t.”

Triad (25-1) had nearly no luck against Benet’s defense of Annastacia Thiel, Sadie Sterbenz, Nora Hanson and Bailey Abbott.

The Knights, who have won 49 of their last 50 games since losing to Benet in the 2019 state semifinals, mustered only three shots.

But Maryville-bound senior Gina Catanzaro made a steal and scored on a 25-yard shot at the 22:33 mark of the second half.


The Redwings had two scoring chances after that. Pinto missed a 26-yard free kick just over the crossbar with 9:00 remaining. Then came the penalty kick.

“At the end of the day, it is OK,” Lewellyan said. “Mariana had a great shot — was just unlucky to hit the post. There was nothing else she could have done.”

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There also was little more the Redwings, who had a 13-game winning streak snapped, could have accomplished this season.

Their previous four losses were one-goal decisions to Class 3A opponents, including state champion Metea Valley.

“I’m just so proud of the way they’ve continued our strong tradition,” Oconer said. “There were a lot of expectations coming into this season after finishing last year with an undefeated regular season and making it to a sectional final in 3A.

“Obviously, moving down to 2A gives you a really good opportunity to win. I told the girls that after starting our season 2-2, you could have gone another direction, but we had the resolve to turn things around.”


They did it despite having only four seniors. Pinto and Lewellyan led them to within inches of the top.

“We had such a new group I don’t think we realized we could work together so well,” Pinto said. “But the way we did do that is incredible, and I’m super proud of everyone.”

Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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