All season long, the defense has been a delight for fans of Lake Zurich's girls soccer team.
After all, the Bears have allowed just 8 goals in 17 games.
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And now, they've won the North Suburban Lake Division title with a 5-0-1 record to go with an overall mark of 14-2-1.
Lake Zurich's defensive prowess showed again in a 3-1 victory over Mundelein on Tuesday night in Lake Zurich.
"By winning this, it shows how hard the girls have worked throughout the season," Lake Zurich coach Michael Castronova said. "As the season goes, you want to play your best ball toward the end of the season."
The Bears will host North Suburban Prairie champ Lakes (12-3, 6-0) for the NSC title at 6 p.m. Thursday night.
Kaitlyn McCurley has been a key figure for a Bears defense, which regularly gets strong contributions from Meagan Bens, Blair Coughenhour, Allison Heinrich, Julia Kuhn, Allie Thompson and goalkeeper Elly Daleske.
"Defensively, I try to make sure the other team doesn't get any chances," said McCurley, who plays centerback. "We like to possess the ball and play it out of the back. We do like to communicate and make it clear who we are marking. We just don't let anything get back there.
"We've been able to limit the goals to under 10 this year. I think we've stepped things up this season. Last year, we had a solid defense. This year, we've kept it out of the back and Elly cleans up anything that gets back there."
The Bears scored first in the 15th minute, when Jordan Jackson kicked a loose ball into the back of the net.
Lake Zurich added two more in the second half. Nicole Rasiarmos scored off an assist from Meaghan Gelinas in the 41st minute, and Gelinas notched her 11th goal of the season as Rasiarmos assisted in the 56th minute for a 3-0 Bears lead.
"We talked about coming out hard and getting a goal early," Castronova said. "Second half, we jumped on them right away getting that second goal, and that was huge for us. We did have a good effort."
Mundelein has struggled recently, dropping to 10-4-5 overall and 2-1-3 in the Lake.
Jasmine Ader netted the Mustangs' goal off an assist from Kaila Cancelli in the 75th minute.
"Obviously, Lake Zurich's the champion for a reason," Mundelein coach Ernie Billittier said. "They're a quality team. I didn't think our energy was where it needed to be. There was some flashes where we wanted to combine, move the ball quickly and change the point of attack. We wanted to just give ourselves a chance in the first half.
"They have a quality side -- I don't think we matched their intensity. We were on our back foot from the beginning."