Barrington stops North Stars in supersectional game
By Gary Larsen
The suffering is over for Barrington, while St. Charles North reached the end of another exceptional season in 2013.
Each of the last four seasons ended in a supersectional loss for the Fillies before Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the North Stars on Wednesday sent them to this year's Class 3A state finals.
Afterwards, Barrington coach Ryan Stengren and senior defender Emily Morin tried to calculate the feelings attached to finally advancing downstate after coming so close in recent years.
"I don't know how it feels. This is a new feeling," Morin said. "But I like it.”
"I feel like the uncool kid that finally got invited to the party," Stengren joked.
For Fillies’ senior all-stater Molly Pfeiffer, sophomore teammate Jenna Szczesny’s contribution to the program’s Elite Eight win cannot be overstated. The sophomore Szczesny scored twice against St. Charles North on a night when striker Pfeiffer also scored a goal but was largely needed elsewhere on the field.
“I was withdrawn on (North Stars midfielder Alex Gage) the whole game so it was hard for me to get up and pressure their backs," Pfeiffer said. "For Jenna to be a sophomore and to carry so much of this team in the offensive end – she was literally back-and-forth on a field that's 75 yards wide, all game long. I don't have the stamina to do that. I don't know how she does it."
Szczesny heads into Friday’s state semifinal game with a team-leading 23 goals this season.
As far as Barrington (18-4-1) is concerned, fate played a significant role in Wednesday’s win. The Fillies withstood a physically intense and suffocating effort by St. Charles North (19-4-1) through 20 minutes of play on Tuesday, before lightning suspended play to Wednesday at Barrington.
The North Stars’ Ashlyn Walter sent a long one-hopper in on Barrington keeper Hannah Luedtke early on in the contest, and Luedtke had to tip a wicked Kelly Manski shot from 40 yards out over the crossbar at 13 minutes.
North’s persistent pressure gave Gage a freekick that she sent wide from 30 yards out, just before the game’s first goal arrived. The North Stars struck at 18 minutes when Gage sent a ball ahead to the top of the box, where Sophie Pohl took a touch across the 18 and slid onto the ball, snapping a shot inside the near post on the left side.
To that point in the game, Barrington was stunned by a North Stars team that also beat the Fillies 1-0 in last year’s supersectional game en route to a second-place state finals finish.
"We knew they were a high-energy, high-pressure team but honestly I wasn't exactly prepared for how hard they came out," Fillies senior defender Aimee Pierce said. "I don't think any of us were. That first twenty minutes wasn't one of our best twenty minutes, for sure."
Fortunately for Barrington, only eight seconds elapsed after Pohl’s goal before Mia Calamari sent the ensuing kickoff ahead to Szczesny, who caught the celebrating North Stars off-guard and buried an equalizing goal.
Two minutes later, the siren sounded from Barrington’s Thor Guard lightning detection system and the game was eventually suspended to Wednesday.
"I've got to thank my principal for having Thor Guard on the building. It was like a big timeout that allowed us to re-group," Stengren said. "Honestly, that helped us.
"We made a lot of adjustments, we knew what match-ups we wanted, and we felt really good after our pre-game talk of what we wanted to do. A lot of it had to do with our mentality because honestly, we were shell-shocked yesterday. If we were going to go down, we wanted to go down playing our way, being the aggressor. It was more about our mentality today. We wanted to come out and go after them."
The game’s deciding goal came with Barrington playing into the wind, just five minutes into Wednesday’s restarted game. A Calamari throw-in led to a corner kick earned by Szczesny, with Pfeiffer heading Calamari’s ensuing corner kick off a defender at the near post for a second corner kick opportunity.
Calamari played a perfect ball to the far post on the second corner that Pfeiffer headed to the back netting. Seven minutes later, Szczesny used a burst of speed to split two defenders, making a diagonal run onto a Pfeiffer through-ball, taking a touch and getting in behind, and calmly passing it inside the post from 10 yards out.
It was the North Stars’ turn to be shell-shocked, but they had nearly 50 minutes to try to erase a two-goal deficit.
"We played great yesterday, but yesterday was yesterday," North Stars coach Ruth Vostal said. "I thought the second 40 minutes was awesome. We definitely had chances but we didn't execute our set pieces particularly well today. But they fought, and if you can walk off the field saying you gave everything you could... and (Barrington) scored two great goals."
Calamari sent in a hard-hit low corner kick headed out by Manski at 35 minutes, and North Stars senior mid Natalie Winkates flicked a one-hopper to Luedtke a minute later, set up by a long North freekick.
Gage ripped a 30-yard freekick at 37 minutes that Luedtke caught at eye level and Manski sent a shot from distance high of frame at 43 minutes.
Manski headed out a Calamari freekick at 52 minutes and Barrington’s Alex Avers did the same on a corner kick taken by North’s Alyssa Brandt at 56 minutes. North’s Lizzie Parrilli chipped a ball over the Fillies’ backline a minute later but Luedtke left her line and took it out of the air.
From there, the North Stars struggled to find a good scoring chance as Pierce, Morin, Luedtke, and Barrington’s girls in back kept Wednesday’s sheet clean.
The Fillies will take on Hinsdale Central (17-3-3) at 7 p.m. at North Central College on Friday, while Buffalo Grove (25-2-1) will play defending state champion Naperville North (20-0-2) at 5 p.m. in Friday’s other state semifinal. Barrington placed second in state in 2006 under former girls’ coach and current boys’ coach Scott Steib.
Stengren is happy that his program now has its chance to compete in the state’s Final Four and tipped his hat to former players that helped create that chance.
"We had so many alumni here today, too, and I'm ecstatic about that because part of this goes out to them," Stengren said. "They paved the way for these girls. Amy Johnson was here and she was an all-Midwest player for us, and she was a senior when Molly, Emily, and Aimee were freshmen, and she led the right way. There were a bunch of seniors that led the right way and she was the leader of that group. This year's senior group is the closest we've come to that group of seniors."
St. Charles North now says goodbye to a group of eight seniors that includes Gage, Winkates, Manski, Kenzie Rose, Jorie Clawson, Melissa Bronke, Maria Ranieri, and Lauren Durocher.
Gage will play for Loyola next season and Manski (Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Winkates (Northern Iowa), Clawson (Southern Illinois-Edwardsville) and Rose (Winona State) will all play college soccer in the fall.
It’s a group that helped the North Stars place third in state in 2010 and second in 2012, and kept the bar raised high for Vostal’s program.
"They have experiences that many high school athletes don't get," Vostal said "I try to tell them that. But our expectations are different for many other schools. There are a lot of teams that would kill to be here but we don't just want to get here -- we expect to get here every year and go beyond. So it's a huge tradition that we've set up and I'm proud of what they've done."