Girls soccer: Barrington's quest for 3-peat falls short
Almost one year from the night Barrington raised the bar for girls soccer excellence in Illinois, its dreams of winning a third consecutive Class 3A state title under coach Ryan Stengren finally ran out of time at North Central College's Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in Naperville Saturday night.
Maddie Schlecht's spot kick conversion proved the priceless goal that put Naperville North atop the 3A class when the Huskies defeated the defending state champs 1-0 (3-1 in penalty kicks).
The Fillies (21-2-2) dominated the 100 minutes, only to be undone by their inability to solve an airtight defensive posture set in place by North coach Steve Goletz, who with this title now has three to his name, and the fourth in Huskies' program history.
"This is the first time that I've lost a game in which the opponent did not put one shot for an entire game but that's the sport of soccer, and sometimes it hurts," said Stengren.
It was clear from the opening whistle that Goletz and his staff did not want to play the type of wide-open attacking style the Fillies play, likely giving their opponent an even greater advantage.
While North did not sit in for the entire night, it did not commit players going forward to attack only looking to counter, then counting on its back line and keeper Amanda Johnson, who would later save two in the shootout.
"Naperville was big, strong and athletic in the back and they defended their box extremely well. They deserved a lot of credit for doing so," Stengren said with class.
On the other side of the park, the Fillies were relentless in their attack, generating plenty of clever combinations, several corners and deep throws and a handful of quality chances which they failed to finish.
"That's the one thing we didn't do tonight (finish) and in the end, it's what cost us the game," admitted Stengren.
Barrington's limitless resolve, and sterling efforts by all kept the Huskies under continued pressure all throughout and in fact could have been rewarded in the 27th minute when it appeared Rebecca Shomaker was brought down in the box after collecting a Madi Rosen free kick.
The Huskies showed some life in their attack after the whistle opened the second period, but soon after the Fillies were at it again.
Shomaker went off the post thanks to fine work by Ashley Rocco and Rosen, then Christine Batliner's looping ball into the box was this close to finding Caroline Kilayko.
The carrot in this state final would have been the return of 2018 hero, Ashley Prell, who has missed the entire campaign after offseason surgery to repair her ACL.
The Illinois-recruit looked in midseason form during her longest stint of the year after Stengren brought her on late, heading wide a wonderful corner in the 80th minute.
Shomaker nearly caught up to a Prell serve to the back post at 83 minutes then Prell, in what would have been the story of the night, broke free of two defenders up the left side and unloaded a wicked blast just off the bar.
Once into penalty kicks, North held a 1-0 advantage after Leah Shumate converted, Johnson saved one and Barrington missed wide.
Emily Dulike and Batliner converted to make it 2-1, then Leah Eisenbarth stopped Hannah Martin to give the Fillies a chance.
However, when Johnson turned away another attempt, it was Schlecht who sent the Huskies' faithful into orbit and the Fillies players and fans into disbelief.
"The girls are as disappointed as they can possibly be but they'll be OK when they realized just what they've accomplished this season and the last two. It's actually really amazing," said Stengren.