Scouting Wednesday's MSL Soccer Bowl
30th MSL Soccer Bowl
Barrington (15-1-1) at Hersey (10-6-3)When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Roland Goins Stadium, Arlington Heights.
History lesson: There has not been a time in recent memory when the division race in both divisions have come down to the last day of the regular season as they did this year.
Conant stayed right there with the reigning league champions from Barrington all throughout, taking a narrow lead in the MSL West when Fremd upended the Fillies.
Hersey kept both Buffalo Grove and Prospect at arms length despite three losses and a draw down the stretch.
But when Riley Raynor broke the hearts of Conant in overtime, and Ellie McAuley did the same last Friday night at Buffalo Grove, the Fillies were back in the MSL Soccer Bowl for the eighth straight time.
Hersey did what it needed to do on that same Friday evening, drawing 0-0 with Prospect, to close out the competition and earn its first trip since 2015, and eighth overall in program history.
Who to watch: Barrington -- Christine Batliner (Sr, D), Kate McGreevy (So, D), Juliana Moreno (Jr, D), Ashley Rocco (Sr, MF), Madi Rosen (Sr, D), Tina Teik (Jr, MF-F). Hersey -- Laura Burkhardt (Sr, MF-F), Emma Hager (Jr, GK), Maddy Kim (So, MF), McKenna Kopeny (Jr, D), Chloe Sena (Jr, F), Jane Stefaniak (So, D).
Lowdown: Off its second straight Class 3A state title, Barrington found itself with several players back from that championship team, sans its two all-state players, keeper Samantha Schmitz and MF Michayla Herr, who are now playing at Harvard and Wisconsin respectively.
In theory, with its entire back line returning, along with most of its starters as well. it appeared the Fillies would storm through the competition and into the state finals once again.
However, offseason ACL surgery to one of the top forwards in the state (Ashley Prell) dealt a severe blow to the Fillies' attack, while an injury late in the season to Tina Teik had an impact as well.
"This is a team that players play for each other, not themselves. We're like a family and with everyone training and working so hard from the first day, whoever we asked to step in has done a wonderful job for us," said Barrington coach Ryan Stengren.
Stengren and his staff have done well mixing and matching a deep roster and while Prell's 20-plus goals have been missed, others have made their mark and picked up the scoring slack.
Ashley Armando, Jen Devona, Caroline Kilayko, Ellie McAuley, Rebecca Shomaker and Raynor have combined for nearly 40 goals.
The tradition of having a stingy defense has continued this spring, with the unit of Batliner, McGreevy, Moreno and Rosen conceding just 10 goals in 17 games in front of a pair of new keepers.
It can be argued that Batliner and Rosen form perhaps the best outside combo around, while McGreevy and Moreno are high on the list as center back partners.
It looked as if Hersey had one hand on the MSL East trophy after the first two weeks of the season when it won its first four league games to earn 12 points. However, the Huskies would then slip on the proverbial banana peel when Conant, Buffalo Grove and Barrington kept them off the scoreboard while putting 14 in the back of their net.
"We hit a rough patch of injuries and suffered some losses that really tested our ability to respond to adversity," said Huskies coach Mike Rusniak. "The great thing about this group is they never would dwell on those losses. Instead they became more together as a team, players would step up to play well, and it helped create a positive energy that kept us focused and just playing one half of soccer at a time."
Back-to-back victories over Wheeling then Schaumburg would right the ship, but a 1-1 draw with Rolling Meadows set the stage for a dramatic season finale with Prospect, where a loss would send Rusniak's club off for good.
"Jane Stefaniak and McKenna Kopeny were and have been amazing in front of Emma Hager (0.96), who had a phenomenal game saving a PK on top of everything else," said Rusniak. "Emily Song and Gabby Kozurek both stepping up made a big difference, while Hannah Grawe had a great game on the outside, all of which helped us earn a hard-fought 0-0 result against Prospect to advance."
The Huskies will lean on Laura Burkhardt to run the show in the middle of the park, defend and go box-to-box while up top they have a wonderful forward in junior Chloe Sena, who leads the club with 12 goals.
They said it: Ryan Stengren (12th year, 238-44-20) -- "The girls have done well in order to navigate through a very difficult stretch that had us playing three tough games in the Naperville Invite, and games with Fremd, Conant then Buffalo Grove, yet we still were able to get to this game. "Hersey is a quality team, and one that we have a lot of respect for, so this isn't going to be like the first one. They have some very good players and it looks like their healthy once again so we'll have to be ready."
Mike Rusniak (1st year, 10-6-3) -- "Having a chance to play for a MSL championship is special for me and our players. This conference is incredibly competitive with so many talented teams so to be in the final is truly an honor and great experience for the girls. We made mistakes in that 6-0 game with Barrington earlier that cannot happen against a team like that so for us, we'll have to play at our highest level, which I know the girls are capable of."