Ryan Stengren was a relieved man Friday night --and why not?
After watching his Barrington team get surprised by Hersey 1-0 a couple of days earlier, the Fillies were hosting longtime Mid-Suburban West rival Fremd.
The Vikings were coming off a 2-1 loss to Buffalo Grove, which happened the same night Hersey topped Barrington.
Quite naturally, both teams were eager to reverse their fortunes.
"You're always concerned when you play Fremd," said Stengren. "Steve (Keller) is such a great coach, and he always has his team ready to play, and you don't know how your team will respond after losing a game in which we dominated but couldn't finish."
Barrington (4-1-0, 2-0-0) impressed Keller, for sure. Despite again having some trouble finishing, the Fillies still were able to come away with a 1-0 victory at Barrington Community Stadium.
"We competed and gave a good effort, but Barrington is big, strong and physical, and they know how to play, and we were no match for them tonight," said Keller. "Buffalo Grove and Barrington are so different in the way they play, but both are very impressive, and I have a hard time believing there's anyone better than those two in the MSL this season."
With Mia Calamari winning nearly every 50-50 ball and a determined effort by Jenna Szczesny, Kelsey Muniz, Aimee Pierce and Megan Fox keeping the Vikings (1-2-1, 0-2-0) under pressure for the first quarter-hour, it seemed to be only a matter of time before the hosts would score.
"We were upset with the result against Hersey the other night, and we all knew how important this game was for us after (that) loss," said Calamari. "With Fremd next up on the schedule, we all might have been a little nervous about this game. But I thought we played a good game, not our best technically, but we really didn't allow (Fremd) to do very much in our end."
Early on, the Broncos had their chances. Szczesny went over the bar, while Molly Pfeiffer missed with her header at the back post off a marvelous corner from Calamari.
"We created some decent chances throughout, but we just weren't very sharp in the final third," said Stengren.
At 29 minutes, sophomore Annalise Avers was plenty sharp. At the end of a terrific run to the back post, she side-footed a right-footed shot under keeper Christine Piasecki after Szczesny and Pfeiffer orchestrated the sequence.
An interesting battle for most of the night occurred at midfield between all-stater Pfeiffer and her counterpart, Fremd's Ashley McConnell, herself an all-state basketball standout. Each won their share of confrontations before Keller pushed his senior up top in hopes of jump-starting the Vikings attack.
"Ashley did a very good job of keeping Molly from doing all of the good things she can do for her team and herself," said Keller, "but they have a lot of players who can step in and pick up the slack on both sides of the ball."
Fillies sophomore keeper Hannah Luedtke was quick off her line when needed, or cut off the Vikings' Carol Wagner or McConnell after feeds from Bri Frys.
"We defended better than we did the other night against Buffalo Grove, and our back three of Cassie Etelemaki, Katherine Ernst and Courtney Norenberg handled the pressure pretty well when you consider how often we were put under," said Keller.
"I would have liked us to manage the game better than we did tonight," Stengren said, "but the bottom line is we got ourselves an important and hard-fought victory, and that's what matters most."
Conant 4, Rolling Meadows 0: A pair of goals in each half lifted the Cougars in Mid-Suburban play, as Courtney O'Keefe, Leah Celarek, Alyssa Altosino and Katie Lomas scored. Haley Anderson made 4 saves to earn the shutout.
Hersey 9, Wheeling 0: Kaitlyn Smetana scored 3 goals and Lauren Gierman 2 as the visiting Huskies rolled in MSL East play.
Buffalo Grove 3, Elk Grove 0: Sara Busse and Allie Ingham scored with assists from Kelli Zickert, and Zickert finished the scoring with an unassisted goal to help the host Bison to a Mid-Suburban East victory. Sarah O'Connor and Kristen Erickson shared time in goal for the Bison.