Boys soccer: Naperville North state title 'an incredible feeling'

By Chris Walker
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/4/2017 10:53 PM
  • Naperville North's soccer team players hold up their first place trophy after beating Libertyville 1-0 in the state soccer championship game at Hoffman Estates.

      Naperville North's soccer team players hold up their first place trophy after beating Libertyville 1-0 in the state soccer championship game at Hoffman Estates. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Like he has done so many times this season, Naperville North's Jack Barry prepared to make a throw-in while seemingly everyone in the stadium knew he was targeting Colin Iverson.

This time, he hesitated, stepping back momentarily toward the bleachers to soak it all in. He smiled at the large group of Huskies fans that had packed one section of the stands and were cheering and shouting his name just as he sent the ball toward Iverson.

Iverson somehow redirected Barry's toss with a header, sneaking it into the corner of the net with 14:47 remaining in Saturday's Class 3A IHSA soccer final against Libertyville.

It proved to be all the Huskies needed. They posted their school-record 21st shutout while extending their program record for wins in a season with a 1-0 victory in Hoffman Estates.

Naperville North (27-1-1) also defended its 2016 state title.

"It was one of the moments I'll never forget," Barry said of turning toward the fans. "I guess I was just trying to enjoy the moment there."

An even more enjoyable moment arrived seconds later.

"I just threw it in and Colin was able to get a piece of it and put it in," Barry said. "It's an incredible feeling because we were really on the ropes at certain times, so it was good to go up one because we knew we were going to battle for the rest of the game."

Libertyville (20-1-2) became the only team this season to consistently challenge the Huskies back line and goalkeeper Tommy Welch. While they created some excellent scoring opportunities, the Wildcats couldn't break through, getting shut out for just the second time this season and first time since Aug. 31.

"It was a full team effort and I think everyone played great from top to bottom," Huskies defender Ethan Harvey said. "I think it was one of our best performances. Mitch (Konrad) and Colin (Iverson) played amazing and Tommy Welch made some amazing saves. It's such a confidence booster with him back there."

There have been games where Welch hasn't been tested frequently. This wasn't one of them. He was attacked often but he never budged.

"Coming into the game I knew I was going to have some action, and I like that," he said. "I like knowing I'm going to have to step up."

The Wildcats outshot the Huskies 22-7 and were awarded 14 corner kicks but couldn't take advantage of their chances. And when they did put the Huskies in a dangerous situation, Welch came up with a Class 3A title match record 13 saves.

"He kept us in the game," Jim Konrad said. "They had some close-in shots that no one could stop other than Tommy Welch. He was for sure special, especially to go through the whole tournament without giving up a goal."

Iverson isn't sure how many of his 15 goals have come off throw-ins from Barry, but he acknowledged that it's at least 10 or 11.

The final one proved to be the biggest. It also came on Barry's 22nd assist of the season, a school record, and it came in Jim Konrad's 250th coaching victory for the Huskies.

"This has to be the greatest Naperville North team of all time," Konrad said. "The fact is that they won 27 games and lost just one and gave up no goals in the tournament. And they just beat a fantastic team.

"Libertyville may have been the better team today on the field, and our talk at halftime was that we're probably not the better team today, but that doesn't matter. What matters is we find a way to win."

And they did and once again are state champions.

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