The Red Stars have made the semis for 5 straight years. Now can they get to the finals?
There's a little bit of a "been there, done that" feel to the Chicago Red Stars playoff status this season.
The Red Stars put together a strong regular season, finished second in the National Women's Soccer League with a 14-8-2 record and earned a bye to the semifinals of the playoffs, which get started later this month.
The Red Stars have been to the semifinals the last four seasons.
Where the Red Stars haven't been and what they haven't done is get to the league championship game, and win a championship.
"This is the fifth semifinal for us in a row," said Red Stars midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo, a native of Naperville and a former star at Waubonsie Valley High School. "So this isn't super new to us. But we've lost four times in the semifinals. We don't have any titles yet. This is definitely a situation where we want to get over that hurdle. And we know that we are capable of doing that."
DiBernardo believes the secret sauce for the Red Stars is the team's long-running chemistry. A core of six players -- DiBernardo, Julie Ertz, Danielle Colaprico, Yuki Nagasato, Katie Naughton and Sarah Gorden -- have been together for several years and have a shared hunger to get the franchise over the semifinal hump.
"If you look at our roster, a majority of our players have stayed in Chicago since we've been rookies. We've grown a lot together over the last five to six years," DiBernardo said. "We have a very strong core group that has been together for so long and that is not very common in this league. Players move around. But we've got players through the draft who have stuck around. We have a lot of players who have played only for Chicago. It's not common to stay with the same club for that long.
"It's hard to create that kind of environment in this league. It's very special what we have."
The Red Stars also have quite a few homegrown stars like DiBernardo, which has added to the local interest in the team.
Naughton and Gorden are both from Elk Grove. Casey Short, Kayla Sharples and Zoey Goralski are from Naperville.
"We have a very close team and it really shows that we like each other in the locker room by the way we play on the field," DiBernardo said. "We all just get along and I think it's really special to have that in a pro environment."
Save the semifinal date:
The Red Stars will wait for their semifinal opponent to be determined in the next week or so and will host a semifinal game at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20 at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.
Not only do the Red Stars feature a collection of hungry, longtime veterans, and some familiar faces from the Chicago area, they also boast the top scorer in the league in Sam Kerr, a native of Australia. She has 18 goals on the season.
Still more hoops:
Don't forget that hoops season is still in full swing.
The WNBA Finals resumes at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday (ABC, Channel 7) in Connecticut with Game 3 of the best-of-5 series between the Washington Mystics and the Connecticut Sun.
The series is currently tied at 1-1.
The most intriguing question heading into Sunday's game is how much will we see of Mystics star and league MVP Elena Delle Donne?
The former Chicago Sky star has a small disc herniation after straining her back in Game 2. She has been undergoing treatment and an update about her status is supposed to be given by the Mystics today.
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