Girls soccer: Batliner-Spinell partnership takes Barrington to the top
The signs were there when Jackie Batliner and Sophia Spinell became club teammates at FCX long ago that the two might have something special as soccer teammates.
But by any measure the Barrington tandem still exceeded expectations.
The Fillies' senior standouts have been named all-staters for a second consecutive season and helped Barrington win a Class 3A state championship.
That last achievement helped the Fillies add an impressive collective achievement to the list, as TopDrawerSoccer.com and the USA Today/NSCAA final polls named Barrington their No. 1 team in the nation.
And now Batliner and Spinell are center stage as co-captains of the Daily Herald's Northwest all-area team.
"These final weeks of the season are like a dream, and with the both of us being named captains of the all-area team, it really cannot get much better than this," said Batliner, the captain of last year's team.
"All of this is really amazing," said Spinell, recently named an All-Midwest selection. "Our season, winning a sixth straight MSL title, then a first state title ever at Barrington, and now captain along with Jackie -- it's all quite an honor."
The Fillies' four-year veterans were in devastating form this season, developing the type of chemistry on the right side which became unstoppable at times.
Their bond began when Batliner joined FCX, and the two went through the soccer ranks and middle school together, even acting as ball girls for future coach Ryan Stengren before earning a spot on the big club in their freshman season.
Haley Tausend and Maesyn Poidomani were a part of that varsity roster and were be joined by Anna Brodjian and Kayla Keck.
"That was the start of what would eventually be a special group of players who would become part of an unforgettable four years of soccer at Barrington," said Stengren.
"We formed a bond through those 8-10 years together, shared the same dreams, trained and played hard, and became so close like sisters -- but without any of the drama that sisters might have," said Spinell.
Both player praise others for their achievments -- especially Stengren.
"I don't think anyone realizes the level of commitment, dedication and extra work that comes from (Stengren) -- he's been able to bring the best out of each and every player, and he treats us like family," said Spinell, who will play at Miami (Ohio) next fall. "We all love him, and it's the same coming back at us."
Batliner was quick to agree: "He treats everyone the same, all 20 of us. He watches hours of film, goes out to see our opponents, prepares for each and every situation. And it's never about him, always about us. It's amazing, and I am not sure if I'll ever see anything like it again."
The Barrington attack collected 99 goals during its 28-1-0 season, many of them coming through the right side, a rarity in that most of the run of play originates from the center of the park.
"The way we attacked was a little unbalanced with me as an outside back," Batliner said. "It just worked really well for the team, and Sophia and I really clicked playing that way."
Batliner was the perfect example of what a footballer playing in this position could be in today's game. The four-year starter was extremely quick and could go forward when needed. She crossed the ball with marvelous touch and pinpoint accuracy, all with passion, high energy, work rate, composure and discipline.
"The thing about Jackie was her work ethic was off the charts," said Spinell. "She went 100 percent full-out and set an example that everyone wanted to follow, and that everyone relied on."
Stengren said Spinell has come a long way during her four year career.
"Sophia came to us as a slightly built, thin freshman with good skills, but not a lot of strength. But she has worked so hard to make herself into one of the top players in the state after a breakout year where she was involved in so many of our goals. She became a dominant outside player and was recognized by coaches as the best player in our sectional, and later when she was named All-Midwest.
"She's a player who works so incredibly hard, and on the flipside, she won't let anyone take a shortcut in our training and preparation, either."
Spinell followed a terrific junior year with a superb final season at Barrington with 17 goals and 26 assists, several coming from quality serves on corners, or from playing an advanced position, moving up and down the flank.
With an abundance of talent which allowed her to seize an opportunity on even the slightest errors from the Fillies' opposition, her trademark deep runs allowed Spinell the freedom to create chances for others or go to the goal for herself.
"Sophia made herself into a great player and became a super-consistent player who used her speed and size to make so many big plays for us this season," said Batliner.
"These two girls were very special," said Stengren, "the kind of people you hope your kids will be some day."
"They led the way for us, both on and off the field. I was fortunate to have them around for four years, and I know they will be friends for life."