Girls soccer: Sixth straight win puts Elk Grove in MSL East contention
Dean Burrier Sanchis had little doubt, but his back-line standout Emma Slattery admits she wasn't so sure.
Elk Grove's girls soccer team took a big step toward advancing to its first Mid-Suburban League Soccer Bowl since 2002 with a 1-0 victory against Fremd on Saturday afternoon at Robert Haskell Stadium.
The sixth consecutive win for the Grens (9-4-2, 6-3-1) means this:
Elk Grove has 19 points in the MSL table -- and so do Buffalo Grove and Hersey.
The Grens and Hersey both have one match left on Monday, while Buffalo Grove has already completed its conference slate with a 6-4-1 record.
Elk Grove has the tiebreaker in its favor against both of its East Division challengers. The Grens have a head-to-head win against BG, and they have more divisional wins than the Huskies.
"It all comes down to Monday for us," said Slattery, who knows a win sends her club into the 29th MSL Soccer Bowl against Barrington next Wednesday. "We have to go out and win our game with Schaumburg on Monday and just take care of business, because if we get just 1 point with a tie, then we have to count on Prospect against Hersey. And that will make me even more nervous than I was before today's game."
The four-year veteran, who has been through some tough times during her career, says first-year coach Burrier Sanchis has believed in his club from the very first day. That confidence has spread, and Elk Grove isn't all that surprised by what it has achieved.
"This is a really tight bunch, with all of us always picking each other up, playing for the team and not themselves," Slattery said.
The first 40 minutes was carefully played, with each side testing the other on just a few occasions, and Elk Grove perhaps enjoying a little bit more of the play.
The Vikings (6-7-3, 6-4-1), who have suffered their fair share of injuries this spring, lost standout center-back Lauren Burk near the half-hour for the rest of the day.
Making matters worse was the condition of keeper Jennifer Norris, one of the best in the area. She was clearly not 100 percent healthy yet still managed to save the day for her club when called upon.
Elk Grove slowly began to take control of the contest as Zoe Blomquist's ball-winning skills helped keep the Vikings in their own end. Blomquist's young teammates Alexa Joshi and Kate Talents did their part to maintain midfield order.
Blomquist was a key figure in the eventual game-winner as she kept the ball inside the Vikings' end, then watched Amanda Sitkowski score from in close with a delicate but deadly finish.
Rachel Kandefer recorded the shutout for Elk Grove, with Slattery, Marisa Mauro and Emma Simmons making sure the Vikings rarely had a good look on frame for most of the day.
Conant 2, Barrington 1: With a seventh consecutive MSL West crown already safely secured, Barrington traveled to second-place divisional finisher Conant on Saturday morning to finish up its regular season in advance of a 13th appearance in the MSL Soccer Bowl next Wednesday at Barrington Community Stadium.
"The few of us who were returning from our state championship team from a year ago felt the potential was there for us to get back to the Soccer Bowl," said Fillies midfielder Michayla Herr, who will play next fall at Wisconsin. "But you can never expect that to happen without a lot of hard work and dedication, and our young players have come in and provided just that."
Barrington coach Ryan Stengren used this contest to keep his starting lineup fresh for whomever awaits the defending champs -- either Elk Grove or Hersey. The Fillies' reserves saw close to an hour of action in Conant's 2-1 victory at Feutz Stadium in Hoffman Estates.
Conant (12-5-2) cleary established itself as the second-best club in the MSL this season with its 1-goal victory, which ended the Fillies' 32-game win streak in the conference.
"We obviously came here to get the win and to build some momentum heading into regionals in another week, plus stay injury free," said Conant coach Jason Franco. "But no doubt, Ryan is the team to beat next week."
Kara Jones, who scored the first varsity goal of her young career earlier in the week against Buffalo Grove, struck once again, this one coming in the 37th minute from a magnificent assist by Ellie McAuley.
Stengren started backup keeper Coast Liapis, then came with Marissa Faulkner after the break and continued to rest standout keeper Samantha Schmitz.
Val Moreno got the Cougars back even when she converted a Stephanie Mazurek helper. Later, Conant's Jess Smeltzer struck the game-winner, her fourth goal in the last two games.
Conant will play either Elk Grove or Hersey on Tuesday in an MSL crossover before preparing for a regional opener at home against Wheaton North on Tuesday, May 15.