Seven years ago Josh Sanew was heading out to coach a summer league baseball game when Glenbard North principal John Mensik asked if he'd like to interview for the job of softball coach.
Then a Panthers sophomore baseball coach, Sanew expected the interview to take an hour. He felt dejected it ended in a quarter of that time.
"I left there thinking, 15 minutes, I really messed this one up," Sanew recalled.
His 15 minutes are far from over.
"It was an easy decision then, and I love it," said the Glenbard West graduate, Class of 1998.
Sanew, assistant Mike McCormick and the Panthers aim for a Class 4A title this weekend in East Peoria. Glenbard North (30-5) and Warren (26-9) battle in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday with the winner taking on either Sandburg or Lincoln-Way East.
A veteran team that includes seven players who've either issued verbal commitments or already are bound for college programs, Glenbard North looks to top third-place state finishes in 1996 and 2001 under former coach Jim McKinney.
Over the last four seasons Glenbard North has gone 110-19, but in each of the past two years the Panthers have fallen in sectional championships, first to Bartlett and then to St. Charles East and both times by a single run.
"I think those two losses had a bitter taste. They wanted to prove a point," Sanew said.
Senior pitcher Cece Dopart (26-4) has done so. The DuPage Valley Conference MVP and a great recruit for Florida's Eckerd College, in 203 innings pitched she's struck out 303 batters, walked 34, allowed 110 hits and has an earned-run average of 1.00.
Dopart got herself in and then out of bases-loaded jams in the Panthers' come-from-behind 6-5 sectional championship victory over Conant, and again in a 4-0, nine-strikeout shutout of Oak Park at the Rosemont supersectional.
In the regular season Dopart threw a perfect game against West Aurora, and she struck out 15 of 16 hitters she faced in a no-hitter against Wheaton North.
Supporting Dopart, Glenbard North hits for a .328 average and .379 in the playoffs. Center fielder Sarah Petzold is hitting .513 with 22 extra-base hits and leads the Panthers with 34 runs batted in and a perfect 22-of-22 in stolen bases. Louisville-bound shortstop Sydney Benz, a 2013 all-state selection, is hitting .407 with a team-high 6 home runs. Illinois State recruit Alex Caliva, second baseman, is hitting .469.
First baseman Heather Sperlazzo and third baseman Stephanie Campos, anchoring an infield whose members each have a minimum of three varsity seasons on top of a wealth of travel experience, are hitting .386 and .345, respectively.
Sanew pointed to two keys to the Panthers' season. Caliva tore an anterior cruciate ligament in October and returned a little earlier than anticipated, by the start of the DVC schedule. Sanew inserted Benz into the leadoff spot in the batting order, and she's gone on to lead Glenbard North with 40 runs scored.
After starting the season 5-3 the Panthers have gone 25-2, both losses to Naperville Central, a 4-2 victim of Sandburg at the North Central College supersectional.
Warren presents an unfamiliar foe, yet for each team in East Peoria familiarity is less important than simply maximizing opportunities while minimizing the opponent's.
Sanew said Glenbard North lately has been a tad "lackadaisical" in allowing teams an extra base. That's been countered by doing positive things offensively -- going with the pitch, timely hitting, laying down the sacrifice bunt.
"You've got to make sure you can come up and generate some runs somehow, any way it takes," Sanew said. "We've played hot and we hope to continue that streak and keep it going. Do the same things that have gotten you here."