Although time is running out on the rest of the Mid-Suburban East in its chase of leader Buffalo Grove, reigning division champ Hersey is on course to finish the regular season on a high note while hopefully setting the stage for a long postseason run.
The Huskies cruised to a 5-0 victory Wednesday over visiting Rolling Meadows (4-10-2, 0-6-0) to celebrate senior night the best way possible. Hersey (9-3-3, 6-1-1) scored 3 first-half goals in a 15-minute span.
"We're still mathematically in it for a division title, but we know we've got to get some help along the way, and then win out against storied programs Conant, Elk Grove and Fremd at the same time," said Hersey coach Brad Abel, whose club has 19 points. Buffalo Grove, idle on Wednesday, stands at 21, and with a game in hand. "Our goal is to finish strong, place high in the table and put ourselves in a good position for the playoffs."
Since an 0-2-1 start, the Huskies have gone 9-1-2, with 7 shutouts from keeper Morgan Harris. The back line of Megan Brant, Kayla Knauss, Anne Korff and Sara Magnuson have been terrific of late.
"That 5-0 opening loss to Buffalo Grove really woke all of us up, but we've turned things around with great defense and good possession soccer, with everyone getting involved in the game," said senior Casey Weyhrich, who has combined with all-area midfielder teammate Lauren Gierman for 17 goals, including 2 from Gierman in the first period.
Weyhrich was one of four Hersey seniors honored prior to the match, and she opened the scoring at three minutes when her long looping shot bounced up and over keeper Christy Silva. Gierman doubled the Huskies' advantage six minutes later when her 30-yard left-footer went just inside the post after Magnuson got things started with a strong run up the right side.
The way the Huskies were knitting their passes together in the midfield was impressive, and Abby Wendell was the next beneficiary as she took a nicely threaded pass from Emma Slosar and fired high into the back of the net from 22 yards.
"With all of our youth and inexperience, we cannot come out and start a game as flat as we did, and expect to compete against a team like Hersey that defends so well," said Mustangs coach Mike Drenth. "The unfortunate thing is we've been playing so well of late, but we just didn't show it until the second half -- which was too late."
Gierman gave Kaitlyn Smetana a nice serve over the top and right to the edge of the box, and if not for a decisive challenge by Silva, the Huskies could have made it 4-0 at 21 minutes.
Silva stopped Sarah Mulroe at the end of her run up the left side in the 34th minute, but nothing could be done about Gierman's second goal of the contest, this one coming in the 36th minute when the Mustangs failed to clear.
The Mustangs were much sharper and full of energy after the break. When they found and played through Mary Collins, Evelyn Lopez, Hannah Busse and Ivette Delgado, they were able to manage possession and keep the Huskies defenders on alert.
Still, Harris notched another shutout, and when the Mustangs allowed an own-goal at 55 minutes, Abel began to pull many of his starters off, giving many of his young players a chance.
"We've got another tough opponent tomorrow in Carmel, which is fighting for an ESCC title, then we've got a busy week ahead of us afterward," said Abel. "As long as the players continue to work and train as hard as they have, we'll be in good shape."
The Mustangs travel to Hoffman Estates for a morning match Saturday before finishing up its regular season next week with Wheeling, Fremd and Schaumburg.
Elk Grove 1, Palatine 0: Emily Wary's second-half goal helped the host Grenadiers improve to 4-2 against Mid-Suburban League goes as Melissa Solorio made 6 saves to earn a shutout for Elk Grove.
Conant 2, Prospect 0: Sophomore forward Leah Celarek had both goals as the host Cougars picked up an MSL win. Conant goalkeeper Haley Anderson (4 saves) earned the shutout.