Naperville North coach Steve Goletz said a key moment in goalkeeper Fiona Baenziger's season came when she saved a penalty kick to help the Huskies defeat Lyons Twp. late last month at the Naperville Invitational.
That momentum continued Friday afternoon in the Class 3A Bolingbrook regional final where she stopped four of five Neuqua Valley penalty kicks as Naperville North beat the Wildcats 2-1.
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The two-time defending state champion returns home to face top-seeded Waubonsie Valley in a 5 p.m. sectional semifinal Wednesday.
"We knew it would be a tough game. You can't predict if it's going to go to OT or penalty kicks. That's a whole different experience," Baenziger, who finished with 10 saves, said. "At that point you do whatever you have to do."
The game was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and remained that way through 20 minutes of overtime, and then it really came down to crunch time for both teams.
Neuqua goalkeeper Hannah Parrish stopped her first three penalty kicks as did Baenziger.
The Wildcats (10-6-3) struck first when Hailey Furio hit net. Then the Huskies' Alexis Dandridge got the equalizer. Baenziger stopped what would be her last penalty kick, and that set the stage for Meghan Lee.
Lee sent the ball high into the net and the Huskies (12-5-3) secured their fourth straight win over Neuqua in sectional competition. She said she planned to go high after seeing both goalkeepers make diving saves on shots on the ground
"That's where I go every practice," Lee said. "We were definitely underdogs. The team pulled through and had a lot of heart and that is what Naperville North is known for. And we couldn't have done it without Fiona."
Time was running out on the Huskies with Neuqua ahead 1-0 after freshman Ryan Gareis deposited a cross from Katie Ciesiulka with 21:55 left in the game.
The Huskies' tying goal, with 2:21 remaining, started when Lee made a cross into a crowd in front of the Neuqua net. Parrish made a skillful play to punch it out of traffic, but Naperville North's Lily Butler headed the rebound into the net.
"Coming out of this regional is a massive deal. These seniors don't want the season to end," Goletz said.
Naperville North is 9-1-1 in its last 11 games.
Neuqua started the season 0-4-2 thanks to beginning the spring with extremely tough opponents, including Barrington, St. Charles North, two Missouri teams at the St. Louis Showcase, Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley. Coach Joe Moreau praised his players for their effort Friday and what they accomplished this season.
"I thought we had the better play in overtime. We just tried to finish and didn't," he said. "I'm as proud of this team as I have been of any. We had six freshmen. Our seniors were never leaders because they had leaders ahead of them. But they stepped up this season."