Class 3A Lake Park supersectional
St. Charles East (17-4-2) vs. Huntley (19-6)When: Today at 6 p.m.
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How St. Charles East got here: The Saints defeated West Chicago 5-0 and Wheaton Warrenville South 5-2 to win the West Chicago regional. They defeated St. Charles North 2-1 and Conant 1-0 to win the Conant sectional.
How Huntley got here: The Red Raiders defeated Jacobs 5-0 and Crystal Lake South 2-0 to win the Huntley regional. They defeated McHenry 5-0 and Machesney Park Harlem 1-0 on penalty kicks (6-5) to win the Rockford Auburn sectional.
Outlook: The St. Charles East girls soccer team seeks to follow in that program's deep postseason footprints while supersectional first-timer Huntley aims to blaze a path for future teams to follow. The Saints are making their 13th supersectional appearance, their first since 2007. St. Charles High School was once the dominant force in Illinois girls soccer, qualifying for the state finals 10 times between 1990 and 2000 and winning 8 state titles (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000). But the Saints have not returned to the state finals since District 303 sister school St. Charles North opened in 2000-01. Doing so has become part of the team's playoff rally cry.
"For this group of seniors, now that they're here and after the season we've had, it means more to them to actually put (the program) back there," St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison said. "For the rest of the group, we've been playing and having fun as a collective. But now that the seniors have seen what potential we do have on Tuesday, they want to leave a lasting legacy and show that St. Charles East is officially back on the map in soccer terms. It's definitely going to be motivating factor, but for the most part our desire for the group to be successful for each other is our best attribute."
Huntley, which has won 8 straight regional titles, achieved a program breakthrough last week by winning its first sectional title. How will the Red Raiders handle the pressure with a state berth on the line?
"Ultimately, you have to worry about task at hand," Huntley coach Kris Grabner said. "We really try to boil it down for each one of them to task at hand -- what is your job at this moment? -- and don't worry about anything else."
Huntley's job will be to slow a St. Charles East offense that responsible for 10 goals in regional play and 3 more at the sectional. Nebraska-bound senior Amanda Hilton leads the Saints with 15 goals, while senior left back Shannon Rasmussen and junior Darcy Cunningham pace the team in assists with 13 apiece. Huntley counters with a talented trio of senior defenders -- Rachel Zobott (Illinois-Chicago), Sam Morin (Illinois-Springfield) and Jenna Hermansen (Wisconsin-Whitewater) -- protecting goalkeeper Jessica Galason (Illinois State). The Red Raiders have allowed only 9 goals in 25 games and all 19 of their victories were by shutout.
St. Charles East's formidable defense includes Rasmussen, juniors Mallory Mollenhauer and Sara Buetow and sophomore Sonia Ost. Rasmussen has been a key player throughout the playoffs, according to her coach. Originally, she was a starting outside mid who could also be used as a forward. However, she switched to left back right before the playoffs and "has been absolutely a revelation for us back there," Jennison said. "She's in a different class."
Rasmussen remains one of the Saints' main weapons on set pieces with dangerous deliveries on corners and free kicks. St. Charles East junior goalkeeper Kendra Sheehan has 10 shutouts this season.
Attempting to slip one past her will be Huntley sophomore Taryn Jakubowski (21 goals, 13 assists), senior Jessica Helm (9 G, 6 A), sophomore Autumn Maraviglia (7 G, 2 A), junior Kaitlin Costantino and senior Beth Parks (5 G, 7 A). "We're getting goals in a number of different ways from a number of different players and we're not relying on one person," Grabner said. "I think that makes it that much more difficult to mark us and to game plan against us."
Advancement: The winner of the Lake Park supersectional advances to a state semifinal at North Central College in Naperville on Friday at 5 p.m. against the winner of the Lewis University supersectional between Lyons and Lincoln-Way North.