NORMAL -- With sophomore midfielder Claire Hilburger suffering a broken leg and being carted off the field on a stretcher at the 13:50 mark of the first half, Naperville North girls soccer coach Steve Goletz wasn't quite sure how his Huskies would respond.
"The kid's in a ton of pain and do we come out shellshocked, or do we come out, 'We're not going to be denied this?'" Goletz said.
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Naperville North senior standout Cora Climo solved the riddle less than two minutes later, putting a nice spin move on a Collinsville defender and booting the first of her two scores past the Kahoks' goalkeeper to give the defending state champion Huskies the lead on the way to a 2-0 Class 3A supersectional win and another trip to the state final four.
"We kind of came out slow and they took it to us in the first half," said Climo, a Naperville North co-captain and a four-year starter. "When Claire went down, we kind of regrouped. We wanted to play for her and we came out and got that goal and started to pick it up a little bit and got things going and got into a rhythm."
"I can't ask for a better response," Goletz said. "The whole group stepped up, but you need someone to put it in the net and get the momentum for us and (Climo) did that."
With Naperville North playing for the first time this season on a natural grass surface -- and a soggy one at that because of recent heavy rains in Central Illinois -- Collinsville (17-7) gave the Huskies (20-0-2) all they could handle from start to finish. Midway through the first half, the Kahoks nearly took the lead when a shot by Sophia Sharos hit the crossbar with a rebound barely missing, as well.
Naperville North goalie Fiona Baenziger also repelled Collinsville threats with a pair of diving stops. The more Collinsville went on the attack, the more the Naperville North defense dug in, with Goletz giving his back four of Angela Widlacki, Tracy Korn, Abby Mangefrida and Jillian Van Kampen high marks for their performance in keeping the Kahoks off the scoreboard.
"They were rock solid, and Emily Bromagen and Christa Szalach in the center of the field do a great job," Goletz said. "It had to be a team effort tonight to get past a team that was as good as it was."
Climo's second goal came on a free kick with just 4:28 remaining in the game.
"Free kicks are one of my favorite parts of the game," said Climo, who will play next season at Bucknell University. "I've actually had most of my goals off of those this season. I always just try to put it on frame to give us a chance. Hopefully it goes in or one of my teammates can get it in."
The insurance score came in a game that was getting increasingly physical.
"I think that both sides agree that there was stuff that was let go that shouldn't have been let go," Goletz said. "But our kids rose above it and kept playing hard and kept fighting and I give them credit for finding a way to get it done."
The Huskies now hope to find a way to win a second straight Class 3A championship. They face Buffalo Grove, a 2-0 winner over Loyola Academy, on Tuesday, in the state semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday at North Central College.
Climo is hoping to play in her third straight state title game. The Huskies finished second in her sophomore season before capturing last year's crown.
"It's kind of been in the back of our head this whole season that everyone's coming out to beat us," she said. "But we've stayed focused as a team and come out hard and really played for each other."
Goletz says the trip to a third straight final four is "a special thing for these seniors.
"For a class to bring home three trophies, regardless of what they are, in their four years of high school is something truly special," he said. "I couldn't be more proud of them."