Girls soccer: Naperville North advances past Metea Valley
Naperville North senior Avery Kotrba continues rising to the occasion on the soccer field, starting at central defender with junior Emily Magee as the Huskies eagerly await the return of senior and Northwestern recruit Reilly Riggs from a concussion.
"She's our captain. She's our go-to, so it was going to be really hard to step in and fill her shoes -- really big shoes to fill," said Kotrba, previously a defensive midfielder.
"It's been a switch, but I normally play center back (in club) so it hasn't been that weird. And I used to play with Emily Magee (in club) so it's like we're back together again and it's fine."
It's also like old times for the Huskies in the state tournament.
Even with several key injuries, last year's third-place Class 3A finisher advanced to their seventh sectional final in the past nine seasons with a challenging 1-0 semifinal victory over Metea Valley at the East Aurora sectional.
The top-seeded Huskies (11-5-4) will try to capture their fourth straight sectional championship at 11 a.m. Saturday against No. 3 seed and DuPage Valley Conference champion Waubonsie Valley, which beat No. 5 Naperville Central on penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 draw. The Huskies beat the Warriors 3-1 April 2.
Just 4:49 into play Tuesday, junior Hannah Martin scored her team-high 14th goal off a pass from first-year senior team member and Wisconsin recruit Maddie Schlecht, who rejoined the lineup from her concussion.
"What a great game. We get a fantastic goal early. And getting (Schlecht) back was huge. She won that ball, grinding it out. And Hannah does what she does in big moments," Naperville North coach Steve Goletz said.
"Metea threw us everything they had in the second half. I thought the girls did a fantastic job standing up."
The Huskies are 4-0-1 with three shutouts since losing 1-0 May 7 at No. 6 seed Metea (11-9-2), which cost them the DVC title. Following the loss, Riggs was diagnosed with her concussion. She is day to day to return.
Metea won that matchup on senior Sydney Rohm's first-half penalty kick and the 2018 regular-season meeting 1-0.
"It was great getting the early goal (Tuesday). It gave us a lot of confidence. I know we felt like we were underdogs," Martin said.
"We have a lot of friends on that team and they're a great team from top to bottom just like us. I think it was a really big motivation to come back and win considering we lost to them twice (counting 2018). They gave it a great fight and it was just one that made the difference. When you get down to these games in the playoffs, you just know it'll be the one shot and we've just got to take it when it comes."
Metea led 10-8 in shots and 6-3 in corner kicks, but Naperville North senior goalkeeper Amanda Johnson made two dynamic saves in the final 18 minutes.
The Mustangs have won six straight regional titles yet still are seeking their first sectional. They've lost their past two sectional semifinals after four straight sectional final losses, two to the Huskies.
"If you go out, you want to make sure you're going out playing hard and playing well, putting up a good fight, and the girls did that," Metea coach Chris Whaley said. "At the same time you play to win and I think the girls think they should have won that game, but the result is the result. We've come a long way this year."
With 17:50 left Metea junior Nicole Dawson's 31-yard, left-side free kick into the wind sailed toward the upper-right corner of the net until Johnson leapt and pushed the ball off the crossbar and over. Sophomore Lauren Wardell drilled her shot with 4:45 left toward the upper left but Johnson also pushed that attempt over the net.
"We got a great performance from our back line," Goletz said. "We've had very few shutouts (five), some bad breaks, some bad goals that we've given up. To come out the biggest game so far this season and put up a shutout was fantastic for the group."
Besides Riggs, the defensive line is minus junior starter Jordan Leonard with a hip injury. At outside defender, junior Paige Sylvester returned after being out three matches and senior Kaitlyn Castillo made her second straight start on the other side.
"I always tell them you never know when your time is going to be to step up. You couldn't ask anything more from seniors and that's why the program is special," Goletz said.
"After that (Metea loss) we've been really strong, wanting to go forward and wanting to get downstate," Kotrba said. "Our back line has definitely changed but we've had some people step up. I'm surprised that we've gotten it done. It's been a battle, but it's been good."
With similar desire, Schlecht dug out the ball just outside the box to find a wide-open Martin at the 17 on the left side of the box. Martin put the ball in the opposite low corner.
"(The pass) caught me off guard. I was just running out wide, Maddie slid the ball through and I wasn't expecting it. I thought she was going to shoot," Martin said. "They have a great goalie (junior Nikki Coryell). I just tried to place it."