The Bruins stormed back with a late first-half rally and traded scores with their hosts in a back-and-forth second half until Kenzie Higareda fired home the winning goal with 1 minute 11 seconds left to give Forest Park a thrilling 12-11 win.
“We just kind of woke up there, and realized how much we wanted it,” Forest Park junior Claire Palermo-Re said. “We knew that they were going to have to go to other players with [Wessels] out, but we just started playing like we’ve been playing, and the goals started to come.”
One of the area’s top finishers, Wessels opened the scoring less than 30 seconds into the contest on an eight-meter shot. By the 15-minute mark of the opening half she already had three goals and a pair of her assists and Osbourn Park appeared in complete control with a 6-0 lead.
But junior Heather Haight got the Bruins (6-0, 5-0) on the board one minute later, and Forest Park scored three of the next four goals. Wessels (four goals, three assists) fed senior Amanda Griffin on the doorstep for a goal to stop the bleeding and put the Yellow Jackets (5-3, 5-1) back up 8-4, but moments later she was shown a yellow card for stepping in front of a Forest Park attacker in an attempt to draw a charge.
With Wessels in the penalty box, Palermo-Re and Haight scored back-to-back goals in 11 seconds. Palermo-Re tallied again with just less than three minutes remaining in the half, and moments before the halftime whistle, Wessels earned her second yellow card and an automatic ejection for stick-checking a Forest Park defender. She will also miss her team’s next game against Freedom-Woodbridge.
Palermo-Re’s fourth and final goal of the night 2:29 into the second half tied the game for the first time, and Haight’s third strike with just over 17 minutes left put the Bruins out in front.
But the Yellow Jackets answered with goals from Griffin, Allison Notarantonio and Katie White to knot the score at 11 while junior goalie Katie Joe Lang (15 saves) did her best to keep her team afloat.
“Corinne is such a dominant player that I think they always feel like she’s the show,” Osbourn Park Coach Kate Thomas said. “I think there was a lot of growth out there tonight for them and they realized they can play tough without her, too.”
Forest Park — which won seven of nine second-half draws with Wessels out — gained possession and held it for three minutes, passing on three eight-meter shots to get the best possible look. Higareda found it on her eight-meter attempt and the Bruins won the final draw to run out the clock, ending Osbourn Park’s unbeaten run in the district.
“We expect to see them two more times — once in the regular season and once in the playoffs — so we’re not taking them for granted,” Forest Park Coach Roger Palmisano said. “But we’re getting better as a team and that’s what you like to see.”