Prior to the postseason, Huntley girls soccer coach Kris Grabner believed if his team could get to the Class 3A regional championship and all the cards played out right, the top-seeded Red Raiders could avenge some regular season losses during a long and decorative postseason run.
The chance was there in Saturday's regional final against No. 2 Crystal Lake South, which was one of those teams who edged the Red Raiders, just 16 days ago in a 2-0 shoutout en route to a share of the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division title with Prairie Ridge.
Fueled by revenge and the lack of a FVC title, the Red Raiders didn't disappoint, getting their payback in ironic fashion when it counted the most -- a table-turning 2-0 win over the Gators (13-4-4) for the regional title, which marked the Red Raiders' eighth-consecutive regional crown.
"It was great because we lost to them last time," said Huntley forward Alyssa Kaufman, who scored the de-facto game-winner in the first half. "It felt great to beat them the same way in a bigger game to get revenge."
"Honestly, I felt we dominated the first game, they just play such good defense, we couldn't score on them," Grabner said in regards to South's win 2 weeks ago. "If we could bring the same intensity, bring the same play and just find that connection in the final third we'd be in good shape. And that's what the difference was. That first goal was exactly what we had been working on, finding the pass in the midfield, finding that back pass in the slot, and the girls pulled off and Alyssa got just enough on it to get it in."
The Red Raiders (17-6) advance to Wednesday's Rockford Auburn sectional semifinal to play FVC-foe McHenry at 6 p.m. Huntley defeated the Warriors 1-0 at home in their only matchup on May 13.
Kaufman and defender Abigail Nordeen rounded out the scoring for the Red Raiders Saturday, as the two hooked up on Kaufman's goal and Nordeen scored an insurance goal in the second half.
On Kaufman's goal, Nordeen won a ball near midfield and sent a through ball in Kaufman's direction down the right seam. Kaufman raced and caught up, corralled and sent a shot on goal just inside the right post from 30 yards out that was initially stopped by South goalkeeper Jaclyn Przybylski, but trickled in for the first score in the 35th minute.
Huntley outshot CLS 14-5 overall and received a 10-2 edge in corner kicks, but it was mainly Huntley's play in the midfield that was the difference.
"(Abby) had the ball and I saw a slot where she could hit it and I figured I could run there," Kaufman said. "I always get told to shoot more, and I just took a shot at it and it went in."
"Coming into this game we knew we wanted to look for those long balls and attack quickly," Nordeen said. "There was just a lot of space. (Autumn Maraviglia) played a great ball back to me and there was a lot of space for (Kaufman) and she's super fast so I knew she was going to get there."
Nordeen's insurance goal came off a ricochet in front of the South net off a free kick sent by midfielder Beth Parks with 10 minutes remaining. But goalkeeper Jessica Galason recorded her 17th shutout of the season and kept the Raiders in good shape between the pipes as well with 5 saves.
"Obviously a win is more important in this situation but a shutout is the icing on the top of the cake," said Galason, as she, Nordeen, Delaney Loprieno and Rachel Zobott became 4-time regional champs . "Since we lost to them earlier this season when they lost the conference title, we did come out of this game wanting this more than anything. This was a big game for us and we came out and showed it."
CLS did see a fine defensive game from freshman Jenna Ross, but did not get many chances on goal. Its best chance came in the late moments when a shot hit the crossbar and right post with 5:07 left.
"I think we didn't do a good enough job of putting enough pressure on them in the midfield," Gators coach Jay Mueller said. "We let them sort of control the play in that way, and that gave them few too many scoring opportunities.