Winning statement from Barrington
Barrington's girls soccer team delivered a striking statement of its intent this season with an impressive 3-0 victory over rival Conant on Friday night on the turf at Barrington Community Stadium.
Ryan Stengren's side enjoyed a 1-goal lead after 40 minutes following a marvelous early strike from sophomore Kayla Schutter. Then all-state striker Jenna Szczesny took over after the break with 2 goals to help finish off a victory for the Fillies (6-0-1, 5-0-0-15 points) against a top challenger in the Mid-Suburban West.
"Barrington is an awfully good team," said Conant coach Jason Franco, whose team finished a tough four-game week at 2-2-0. "They go out and try to play the game, they have a lot of depth and team speed -- then there's (Jenna) Szczesny up top.
"When she comes out and is in full attack mode, there just isn't anyone like her in the state. It's just that simple."
Szczesny, a senior, has 7 goals in her last two matches.
"We had a little talk today about going out and taking people on and attacking Conant whenever possible, and tonight you caught a glimpse of what she is capable of when she plays just that way," said Stengren.
Szczesny's goals at 61 and 68 minutes were just icing on the cake for the Fillies, who passed their first serious test in a quest for a fourth straight division title.
"You kind of get caught up just watching your team play, especially when we're playing the way we did tonight, but then I have to make sure to be aware of what's happening all around me just in case something happens in our own end," said Butler-bound Barrington senior keeper Hannah Luedtke, who was called upon in the closing minutes on two quality chances by the Cougars. "I am fortunate to have a young but terrific back line in front of me."
Trouble arrived for the visitors just two minutes into the match when Schutter turned and squared up her shoulders before unloading a nasty one-timer into the back of the net from just inside the box.
"Getting that first goal, and so early, was exactly what we needed in a big game like this," Luedtke said.
"We didn't have near the amount of intensity and energy we needed at the start tonight," said Conant defensive standout Katie Lomas, "and we never really found it until the second half."
"Katie has been our MVP thus far, and the real glue to our defense," said Franco.
The Fillies' lively start continued for nearly the first 25 minutes as they moved up and down the field freely.
"We just weren't able to possess or connect much with other in the first half," said Lomas, who got plenty of help from senior Rachel Raymer, who at times was man-marking Szczesny.
Megan Fox nearly doubled the Barrington advantage at 19 minutes before, near the half-hour mark, Luedtke pulled a long, looping free kick from Lomas down as it veered toward the near post.
The Cougars came out sharper in the second period, but Szczesny and Co. soon took control. Szczesny thumped a Soph Spinell corner in from inside the 6 before making it 3-0 with a brilliant run and one-on-one move after sophomore Maesyn Poidomani put her teammate through with an inch-perfect pass.
"With the overall speed Barrington has, they almost make our fastest player look pedestrian," Franco said. "They are going to be very difficult to beat from here on out in the conference.
"We'll be fine despite the loss tonight. I still feel we're the second-best club in the conference, and once we get ourselves healthy we'll be in good shape from there on out."
Barrington will host state power Waubonsie Valley on Saturday, a week after the Warriors defeated Conant 4-2 in Hoffman Estates.
"From our team meeting earlier in the day, right on through our warm-up, I felt we were ready for this game," said Stengren.
"This kind of effort is what we've been hoping for and expecting from the girls, so it was great to see it come together against a quality opponent. But we all know there's a lot of work ahead of us to get us ready for the stretch run."
Elk Grove 2, Wheeling 0: The visiting Grenadiers earned an MSL East victory, getting an unassisted goal from Bailey Murphy and another from Leila Aguilar (assisted by Emma Simmons) as keeper Cassie Slattery earned a shutout.
Hersey 2, Rolling Meadows 0: Kayla Knauss assisted on both goals for the Huskies -- one by Kelly Weyhrich, one by Grace Kozurek -- to lift Hersey in MSL East play.