On the road again for the last time this school year

One more road trip down Interstate 55.

If a team’s success is defined by wins and losses, mine can be determined by how many two-hour rides south to Bloomington or East Peoria I make to state championships.

My car has been busy this year, because our teams have been pretty darn good. As you read this, I’m heading to East Peoria to cover the state softball tournament.

Here now, I’ll continue the Daily Herald tradition of presenting in chronological order the top 10 moments in the school year in DuPage County girls athletics.

Oct. 20, 2012: BUFFALO GROVE — Avenging a loss to the same opponent the year before, Wheaton Warrenville South junior Keisha Clousing beat Hinsdale Central’s Alex Solovyev 6-4, 6-1 to win the state singles tennis final. Clousing survived consecutive three-set matches to get the final, defeating Alex Chatt of Lyons in a grueling two-and-a-half-hour semifinal.

Nov. 3, 2012: PEORIA — Glenbard West junior Madeline Perez obliterated the girls state-meet record for all classes, winning the Class 3A cross country title at Detweiller Park.

Perez’s time of 16 minutes, 2 seconds was 20 seconds faster than the winning mark put up by Woodstock’s Kayla Beattie in the 2010 race. It also was a personal best by 26 seconds for Perez, who battled an upper respiratory illness and sinus infection most of the season. In taking second place York senior Emma Fisher finished in 16:15 — six seconds faster than any girl had run at Detweiller before. Naperville North won the Class 3A team title.

Nov. 10, 2012: BLOOMINGTON — A steady stream of tears from Peg Kopec and her St. Francis girls said it all. The memories of ex-Spartan Megan Boken were in their hearts and minds. Wearing the same “lucky state” uniforms that Megan wore when St. Francis last won it all in 2006, sister Mary Boken and the Spartans beat Richmon-Burton 25-21, 25-20 in the Class 3A volleyball final at Redbird Arena.

It was the ninth state championship for legendary coach Kopec, tying her with ex-Mother McAuley coach Nancy Pedersen for the most state titles as a coach.

Nov. 10, 2012: BLOOMINGTON — Call it two the hard way. Counted out at the beginning of the year, down a set in both matches at state, Benet stormed back to beat New Trier 21-25, 25-22, 25-17 to repeat as Class 4A volleyball champion. Benet graduated four Division I players, lost 10 seniors and 95 percent of its offense but went back-to-back with extraordinary defense led by libero Sheila Doyle. Redwings senior outside Cara Mattaliano, who didn’t even dress at state as a junior, carried her team home with 21 kills — including the last 4 points of the second set and match point in the third. Benet became the first repeat champ in the state’s largest girls volleyball class since 1994-95, and the first Class 4A repeat winner.

Nov. 17, 2012: EVANSTON — Gia Dalesandro thought she’d give the 200-yard individual medley a try.

The Neuqua Valley senior, who scored in the top six at the 2011 girls state swimming meet in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly, won the 200 IM and 100 butterfly to helped lead the Wildcats to a third-place finish at state. Benet’s Taylor Kramer won the state diving championship, and Downers Grove North’s Gabby Sims won the 100 freestyle.

Feb. 11, 2013: ROCKFORD — One year after finishing third, Waubonsie Valley captured its first state bowling championship by knocking down 12,512 pins, just 22 shy of the state record. Warriors junior Julia Bond, who tossed two 300 games during the season, knocked down 2,634 pins to finish fourth individually at state and Sara Barsotti took seventh.

March 2, 2013: BLOOMINGTON — It was a grind for Montini, but it ended on a good note. A day after Vernon Hills stunned the Broncos in overtime to end their bid for a record fourth straight state basketball championship, Montini rallied past Morton 42-38 in the Class 3A third-place game. Freshmen Lea Kerstein and Paulina Castro sparked a second-half rally, and Kerstein’s two free throws sealed the victory. Later that night, a buzzer-beating putback gave Marian Catholic a win over Rolling Meadows in a thrilling Class 4A final.

May 25, 2013: CHARLESTON — Madeline Perez completed the prep version of the triple crown of distance racing. The state cross country champion beat out defending champion Kaylee Flanagan of Lake Park in 10:22.99 in the 3,200 final, then won the 1,600 in 4:52.24 at the Class 3A state track meet at Eastern Illinois University. In the 1,600 Perez ran shoulder to shoulder over the last 600 meters with New Trier’s Courtney Ackerman, Perez having one final burst. The first DuPage County two-event champion since Naperville Central’s Casey Short and Downers Grove South’s Egle Staisiunaite led Glenbard West to its first girls track team trophy.

June 2, 2013: NAPERVILLE — Zoe Swift capped off a brilliant career in style. The Naperville North senior scored 2 goals, and the Huskies wrapped up an undefeated season by beating Hinsdale Central 2-1 for their second consecutive Class 3A soccer championship. Swift caught up with an Abbie Boswell through ball heading toward the Hinsdale Central net and finished in the sixth minute, and 11 minutes later got to a Cora Climo free kick and headed in a goal.

June 8-9, 2013: EAST PEORIA — Two more champions to be crowned in state softball, and DuPage County teams will be right in the thick of things this weekend. In Class 3A, Glenbard South returns to East Peoria for the fifth time in sixth years with aims to repeat as state champs. And in Class 4A, 23-14 York hopes to match Marist’s Cinderella run to the crown last year.

Best of luck to all the teams still playing! Before you know it, it will be time to serve up another great sports season.

Follow Josh on Twitter @jwelge96

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