Third-place trophy caps memorable run for Barrington
Less than 24 hours after a riveting 100 minutes ended with Barrington unable to prevent a second straight state crown for New Trier, the Fillies finally got the better of downstate Collinsville in a fiercely contested third-place contest at North Central College in Naperville to put the final touches on a memorable run for the Mid-Suburban League girls soccer champions.
Ann Marie Niro, who came back from club soccer to play her final year of high school soccer, scored both goals in a 2-1 victory on Saturday to give the Fillies (22-2-4) their second third-place state trophy in four years.
The outcome against Collinsville (21-5-1) also gave the trio of four-year veterans Megan Fox, Hannah Luedtke and Jenna Szczesny the best possible sendoff a player could receive.
"It's sure a lot better to finish with a win than a loss," said Barrington coach Ryan Stengren, who said Friday night's semifinal defeat to New Trier stayed with him far into the wee hours of the morning. "The girls played an incredible game (vs. New Trier). I don't think we could have done anything different or better except put one of our chances into the back of the net. But as this group has done all year long, it found a way to put that heartbreaking loss behind it and finish the season on a high note."
For the aforementioned trio, along with Kelsey Muniz (a three-year varsity player) and Niro, the New Trier loss stung for a while. But the pain slowly dissipated on the bus ride home.
"Yes, that bus ride home was a long one, but it gave all of us the time to work on the loss and what it meant to us," said Szczesny, who leaves with a long list of accomplishments, including back-to-back all-state seasons to go along with her second Gatorade Player of the Year honor for Illinois. "But I felt we came out and gave our best possible effort (Saturday) even though all of us had heavy legs, and less energy than we did against New Trier."
"The ride home last night was much tougher than the one coming here today," said two-time all-state keeper Luedtke, who will play at Butler University next season. "Things just didn't quite go our way against New Trier, but the great memories of our four years far outweigh that result. And all of us associated with Barrington soccer have four straight MSL titles, plus two state trophies, which is something we'll always have."
Niro finished what Szczesny and sophomore teammate Jackie Batliner started in the 50th minute. Batliner was the creative force after a marvelous cross-field serve fell to the foot of the Fillies' scoring leader.
After Mikayla McCarthy equalized in the 64th minute, the Notre-Dame bound Niro steered in the game-winner seven minutes later, with the helper coming from Szczesny.
"Ann Marie was a welcome addition to our team and our program," Stengren said. "She fit in like a glove, and maybe the best thing about her, aside from great play-making skills and ability, is her work rate. It is second to to none, and a real inspiration to the younger players on this roster."
One certainty in the relentlessly evolving nature of sport is that nothing last forever.
With that said, though, you would be hard-pressed to find another club in the MSL which is better prepared for yet another championship run next spring than the Fillies.
Despite the obvious losses of senior standouts, Stengren will welcome back several young players who were already so influential this year. Batliner along with her sophomore back-line mates Kayla Keck and Haley Tausend, along with junior Lauren Pircher, all return after the stingy bunch conceded just 12 goals in 28 matches.
Luedtke's understudy, freshman Samantha Schmitz, played in nine matches to help provide her a taste of what's to come.
The sophomore quartet of Soph Spinell, Kayla Schutter, Maesyn Poidomani and Anna Brodejian bagged a combined 23 goals and will now have their turn to shine next spring.
Stengren has others in the pipeline ready to step-in, so another possible long tournament run could be in the future. The Fillies were a remarkable 79-17-7 during the four-year span for Fox and her senior teammates.
"There are just so many things to remember during our four years together," began Fox, who is off to Marquette University in the fall. "It was like having 22 sisters. We were so close and we stayed that way all throughout the way and for me, that's what I'll remember the most."
"I said all along this was a team that I never wanted to stop coaching," Stengren said. "They worked so hard to get better, all of the time, and their approach to each training session and game was like they were professionals.
"As a coach, I could not have been more fortunate to have a bunch of girls like these."