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updated: 5/29/2014 1:58 PM

St. Edward focused on Class 1A state championship

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  • St. Edward goalie Paige Dykstra, facing, in pink, is swarmed by teammates as they rush the field after their Class 1A supersectional win over Chicago Latin at Concordia University in River Forest on Tuesday. St. Edward will take on Manteno in a state semifinal at North Central College in Naperville on Friday at 7 p.m.

       St. Edward goalie Paige Dykstra, facing, in pink, is swarmed by teammates as they rush the field after their Class 1A supersectional win over Chicago Latin at Concordia University in River Forest on Tuesday. St. Edward will take on Manteno in a state semifinal at North Central College in Naperville on Friday at 7 p.m.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

They're about as cornball a bunch as you'll ever find wearing high school uniforms, and their coach will be the first to tell you that.

He will also be the first to tell you they don't practice very well, although he may use words to describe those practices that can't be printed in a family newspaper.

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But he will also be the first to tell you that when they hit the field, they are all business.

And one can't argue with the results, because the St. Edward girls soccer team is in the IHSA Class 1A Final Four this weekend at North Central College in Naperville. The Green Wave will take a sparkling 25-2 record and 18-game winning streak into Friday's 7 p.m. state semifinal against Manteno (23-2), a team that, on paper at least, looks very similar to the Green Wave.

But before St. Edward takes the field on Friday night, you can bet the Wave will be relaxed and having fun. Why not? It's what they've done all season and why try to fix what's not broke?

"Since day one we all knew where we wanted to go to end the season," senior Allison Kruk said Wednesday, a day after the Green Wave had dispatched of Chicago Latin 4-0 in the Concordia supersectional, the Wave's 17th straight shutout. "The juniors experienced supersectionals last year and they knew how hard it is. We all knew we had the potential to get to state."

Potential is just a word, and an overused one at that. But this St. Edward team has realized its potential and now it gets to perform on the state's biggest stage. It's a goal seniors Kruk, Corey Lepoudre, Monica Ramirez and Emily Witt have had since making it to state in 2011 as freshmen. "Finish Where We Started," has been the Green Wave's theme all season.

"The seniors don't want this to end and that's what gives us the motivation to push on," said Ramirez, the Suburban Christian Conference Player of the Year who will move on to a Division I career at Illinois-Chicago next year.

The four St. Edward seniors all played on the 2011 team that reached the Final Four but lost twice in Naperville. And even though state hardware adorns the trophy case at Locust and Elm, the players remember going 0-2 at state.

"For the four seniors who went downstate as freshmen, we know now how to keep our cool and get everyone focused instead of being like 'Oh my gosh we made it, let's get a sweatshirt.' " said Kruk, the school's all-time goals leader, boys or girls, who got to play the supersectional at her future college home.

"We're not done yet. If we don't do anything at state, what's the point? Getting past that first game would be history and playing for the state championship would be the perfect way to end our high school careers."

Tuesday's supersectional win was a big hurdle to clear, considering last year the Wave squandered a 3-goal supersectional lead against Francis Parker and missed out on a chance to play on North Central's turf.

"There was never a time when we thought we had it because we knew they could come back," said Ramirez of Tuesday's win. "But when we got the fourth one we kind of knew."

"I was just happy we weren't crying," added Lepoudre. "The last two years that was not our happiest game. Everyone was smiling this year and that was the best part."

"It was just one more step for this group," said head coach Tim Brieger, now in his 19th year and 38th season as St. Edward's boys and girls soccer coach, meaning on Friday he will coach his 872nd St. Edward soccer game with 238 of them being wins with the girls' program.

"In '08 we had no clue what state was as coaches or players. In '11 it was that just happy to be there feeling. Now the feeling is that if we're just happy to be there why go down there?"

The "cornball" stuff this team does keeps the smiles alive. It's really nothing in particular, other than the "soft" face slaps that get handed down every year.

"We come up with random things," Kruk said. "We pretty much stick to a routine but we mix it up a little."

"Bus rides are the best," laughs Lepoudre, who will play at Augustana College next year.

Fan support in the postseason has been important to the Wave as well.

"We never get fans at our games but the last couple games have been cool with a lot of people coming out to support us," said Lepoudre, who along with Kruk and Ramirez added they have received multiple messages of congratulations and well wishes through Facebook and Twitter.

On the field Friday, the Green Wave will attempt to slow down a team that has allowed just 1 goal in the postseason. Manteno's losses are to Libertyville and New Trier, Class 3A schools. St. Edward lost to Geneseo and St. Charles East, also Class 3A schools. The teams each beat Lisle and St. Thomas More of Champaign by similar scores. And they both rely in defense as their forte.

"It's just going to be who gets over the jitters the quickest," said Brieger, whose team has scored 123 goals this season and allowed 8.

The focus is clearly on Manteno, winning, and playing for a state championship on Saturday. To the Green Wave, that means Manteno is the "OK, next," on the list.

And if they keep smiling and having fun like they have all season, Saturday night could become a very special time for St. Edward High School and the City of Elgin.

jradtke@dailyherald.com

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