Girls soccer: Barrington repeats the feat
State championship matches don't get bigger than this -- or more dramatic.
In last year's Class 3A girls soccer title game, Barrington and New Trier were unable to decide it after 100 minutes of play. It went to a shootout, where goalie Samantha Schmitz made a spectacular save to help the Fillies win the program's first championship.
Now, Barrington has a second state title, achieved in an eerily similar manner.
History repeated at Benedetti-Wehrli Field on the campus of North Central College in Naperville, with Barrington claiming another shootout victory. The Fillies won penalty kicks 3-2 to win the match 2-1.
Schmitz again was a central figure, turning away 3 spot kicks. And this time teammate Ashley Prell provided the winning kick, sending Barrington into a repeat championship frenzy.
"I am almost speechless," said drenched Fillies coach Ryan Stengren, who received the customary sports drink shower from his players after his club celebrated a state title which just three weeks ago seemed unlikely at best. "This team slowly came together as the season went on. But when you look at who we beat, and how we did so in this last week, all I can say is unbelievable."
"I'm at a loss for words as well," said Schmitz. "It's hard to believe we went to PKs in this game after going through the same thing last year, and what makes it so hard to believe is most of last year's team has graduated and moved on, and we have almost a brand new roster."
True enough -- the Fillies (21-3-2) simply making it to the final four was quite an achievement. They needed to beat both top-ranked St. Charles North and a powerhouse Naperville North team just to get into the last game of the season against New Trier (23-1-2), which also had been ranked ahead of Barrington.
Early on against the Trevians, it sure didn't look like Barrington would be making celebration plans. New Trier looked nearly unstoppable and took the lead in the 27th minute when Chicago-bound Nicole Kaspi bulldozed her way through the defense and converted an unassisted goal.
"We weren't that happy with that sequence that led to that goal because it appeared (Kaspi) may have fouled her way into the box," Stengren said. "But great players do that to make big plays.
"At the break, I told the girls in no uncertain terms we were not going to lose this game on a goal like that. And soon afterward, we were back even thanks to a remarkable effort from Prell."
Prell, the Fillies' leading scorer (21 goals) and an all-state forward, was playing on an injured ankle so bothersome that both Stengren and his top-flight junior later said she was playing at just about 50 percent.
"It's been really sore over these past two days, but there was no way that I wasn't going to just go out there and gut it out in a state final, and on the last game of the year," said Prell.
Her brilliant work up the left side four minutes into the second period was highlighted by sensational footwork on the ball at full speed, which allowed her to touch past an outside defender before driving a wicked angled blast past Trevians keeper Meghan Dwyer.
The goal brought the huge Fillies crowd out of its seats, but they had to be pleased with what they'd seen leading up to it.
"From after the Kaspi goal, and right on through the middle of the second half, I thought we had a lot of the play, limited New Trier to just a few set-piece chances and looked a lot quicker and sharper up top and through the midfield," Stengren said.
Both teams had chances as the second-half time slowly dwindled, with Dwyer tested more often than Schmitz until the first 80 minutes was unable to decide a winner.
Schmitz was confident in her challenge off her line to take a potential shot off the foot of Fallon Warshauer in the 88th minute, but that was about as close as each side got in both of the two 10-minute extra sessions.
Once in shootout, things again looked bleak for the Fillies, who saw their first three attempts saved by Dwyer. Meanwhile, Schmitz turned away Sydney Parker and Lily Conley, in between a conversion by Kaspi.
Christine Batliner, superb in the Fillies' back line along with junior Madi Rosen, Juliana Moreno and Kate McGreevy, drove her spot kick in to make it 1-1 before Emma Weaver put the Trevians back in front at 2-1.
Moreno thumped her attempt high into the net for Barrington, and then Schmitz was at it again, turning away Whitney Hoban.
The teams flipped a coin for the next round of kicks. And after Nell Martin rattled the bar but did not convert for New Trier, up stepped Prell, who drove her low blast into the goal to send her team and its fans into orbit.
"I haven't been able to practice PKs in awhile because of my bad ankle, but tonight, I would be ready no matter what," said Prell.
That kind of focus ended up leading to the kind of repetitive history Barrington can savor over another long, happy off-season.
"Prell and McGreevy both were playing with badly sprained ankles, and Madi has had a hamstring injury for a couple of games," said Stengren. "But this team just never gave in. Everyone came through when asked to, and as I've said before, our young players have grown up before our eyes to help get us another state championship."