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updated: 3/28/2013 3:19 PM

St. Edward has some unfinished business

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  • St. Edward's Allison Kruk celebrates the first of two first-half goals against Stillman Valley last season in a Class 1A sectional semifinal game in Harvard. Kruk set a program record for goals in a season with 19 last season.

      St. Edward's Allison Kruk celebrates the first of two first-half goals against Stillman Valley last season in a Class 1A sectional semifinal game in Harvard. Kruk set a program record for goals in a season with 19 last season.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Corey Lepoudre of St. Edward moves the ball around Skyler Tomko of Lisle during last year's supersectional.

      Corey Lepoudre of St. Edward moves the ball around Skyler Tomko of Lisle during last year's supersectional.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent

The St. Edward girls soccer team took a sledgehammer to the record books last year.

The Green Wave set new program records for goals scored (75), winning streak (8), shutouts (17), consecutive shutouts (9) and games played in a season (29). They also tied records for wins in a season (19) and playoff wins (4).

Yet, the Green Wave walked off the field with some unfinished business staring them in the face.

St. Edward went 19-8-2 in 2012 and reached the Class 1A supersectional where it lost to Lisle -- a game the team hasn't forgotten about. One goal separated the Green Wave from making their third trip to the state finals since 2008 (St. Edward finished fourth in Class 1A in 2011).

"That game last year was a heartbreaker," said 18th-year St. Edward coach Tim Brieger. "For whatever reason that game will be a nightmare for us for a long time. We fell a little short of expectations. We had a great season but I think the girls know we might have let one slip away there."

The loss definitely caught the attention of standout sophomore defender Kathleen Duffy, a Daily Herald All-Area selection as a freshman last year.

"We got a bit of a wake-up call last year," she said. "It was a bit of a shocker losing to Lisle. We had chances and couldn't capitalize. We're definitely working on improving that. The girls are working hard in every practice and not wasting a single minute."

Now St. Edward is determined to make sure that heartbreak does not happen again. And the Green Wave are in a position to potentially soar to even greater heights thanks to the return of 8 starters from that 2012 team.

"This is a group that has a lot of experience," said Brieger. "The four juniors have started pretty much every game since they got here. The two sophomores started every game and the seniors have been starting since they were sophomores. Our sophomores have been playing together since they were little kids and they know our juniors. We're not as deep as we've been in the past numbers-wise, but talent-wise this is as deep as we've had. They are ready to see if they can improve on last year."

That group of returning starters includes high-scoring junior Allison Kruk, who set a program single-season mark last year with 19 goals and had 7 assists. Sophomore forward Chelsea Gnan marched into St. Edward as a ninth-grader and set the freshman single-season mark for goals with 16 and set the program record for assists in a season with 15.

Also back are junior midfielders Corey Lepoudre (5 goals, 7 assists) and Monica Ramirez (3 goals, 6 assists), as well as senior midfielder Kimmy Smith (6 goals, 4 assists).

St. Edward has plenty of talent returning in the backfield with Duffy (3 goals, 5 assists), senior Rena Ranallo (2 goals, 1 assist) and junior Emily Witt.

In addition to Duffy, Kruk and Gnan were Daily Herald All-Area selections, while Lepoudre and Ramirez were honorable mention all-area picks.

Kruk, Lepoudre, Ramirez, Ranallo, Smith and Witt were all part of the fourth-place state team. Kruk scored 10 goals that year, while Lepoudre and Ramirez each had 9 goals as freshmen.

"The majority of us have been playing with each other since we were little," said Duffy. "We knew each other coming into high school. It's easier for us to come together as a team."

Sophomore Megan Kearney, a midfielder-defender, is basically the ninth returning starter. "Megan was one of our first players off the bench and played in every game for us last year," said Brieger.

Sophomore defender Casey Gredzieleski also saw action last year.

"We have girls here who are really dedicated and want to go out and play well," said Lepoudre. "We have a lot of talented seniors and juniors and sophomores and freshmen that have come in eager to train and help the team. It's a team that clicks. We're all very close to each other."

The biggest change occurs in net where sophomore Paige Dykstra takes over for graduated record-breaker Paige Gannon, who was the Daily Herald's honorary captain of the all-area team last year after posting a 0.89 goals-against average and 17 shutouts (29 career shutouts). Dykstra played in one game in goal last year as a freshman.

"When you are behind a player of the year, it's tough," said Brieger. "But the thing to remember Paige Gannon didn't play her freshman year because she was behind a senior. Paige Dykstra played some in the field for us last year. She has no complaints. She knows it's her time to shine this year. She has been working so hard and is ready to go and excited to continue on from last year."

In addition to marching out plenty of talented soccer players on the field, Brieger has made sure the players on the other side are equally as talented.

"We've scheduled some of the bigger guys to beat us up and force us to play better so we can be a little sharper at the end," he said (St. Edward lost its season opener to St. Charles East 5-0). "Our schedule is going to be difficult this year. With the way the weather has been, we have a lot of games in a short period of time. I think at one point we have like 9 games in something like 10 days."

Brieger is never worried about what the team's win-loss ledger is. Results at the end of the school year are what he is most interested in. Brieger added in addition to a tough nonconference schedule, the squad will be constantly tested inside the Suburban Christian Conference where it went 5-4 last year.

"When we're playing that many games in a row, we may have to rest people and that might mean we lose a game here and there," he said. "When we finished in fourth place in the state we had a record just over .500. We don't set up our schedule based on wins and losses. If we did that we wouldn't put St. Charles East, Nazareth, Streamwood or Hampshire -- the bigger teams -- on the schedule. I'd rather be .500 and battle-tested than be 20-4 and having played nobody. We want to test the girls and push our girls."

Brieger is as excited as ever to get the season going. He's the only coach the program has ever known. The St. Edward alum, who played in the first St. Edward boys soccer game in the fall of 1990, needed 3 wins coming into the season to reach 200 for his girls career. He coached in this 400th career game at St. Edward in the fall during the boys' season. Brieger is 197-157-41 in his girls career and has 12 seasons of 10 or more wins. The Green Wave are 33-17-5 the last 2 years.

"You start looking back 18 years and you don't realize how many kids you've coached and how many games you've coached," said Brieger, who easily recalled the program's first win in 1996 (against Harvard) and its 100th (against Huntley in 2004). "It's a family environment here. I love it. We don't have the greatest facilities on the planet and we're not the biggest school, but St. Edward kids are amazing."

And this year's St. Edward version is laser-focused on carrying on that amazing moniker.

"We want to do even better than last year," said Lepoudre. "We're even more motivated this year. We want to go even farther."

Duffy said overcoming last year's supersectional disappointment will be a season-long process.

"We want to come out with a bang at the start of the season and continue it throughout the season and finish up as strong as we can," she said. "We're all excited to get out there and play."

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