Cougars place third in Illinois with 4-2 win over Fremd
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By Gary Larsen
Conant and Fremd made it all the way to a third-place state finals game, Barrington won a sectional title, Palatine and Schaumburg won regional titles, and Elk Grove played for a regional title this year.
And despite a regional semifinal loss to Palatine, Hersey won the MSL Cup this season. In short, the Mid Suburban League did itself proud in 2011.
“It says a lot about our conference,” Fremd senior Elise Kotsakis said. “We have a very strong conference. We had (three) teams play in supersectionals this year and there’s really good competition in our conference.”
Conant (21-5) won 4-2 over Fremd in Saturday’s 3A third-place game, getting a pair of goals from Sammi van de Linde and one apiece from Kaitlin Chiero and Courtney Raetzman. The result matched the 4-2 win Conant posted over Fremd in their regular season meeting on April 6.
It may not have been the state title-game, but the MSL rivals weren’t about to go through the motions in the consolation game.
“We knew what we had to get done and we did not want to lose to Fremd, that’s for sure,” van de Linde said. “That was a big motivation for us.”
Motivation may have been hard to come by for both teams, as both lost their state semifinal games on Friday night. And that wasn’t the only obstacle they faced heading into Saturday’s consolation match.
“It’s hard after you lose the day before, and we had prom last night. We showed up for parts of the game today, but we weren’t there for the whole game,” Kotsakis said. “The motivation wasn’t there, I don’t think.”
Conant had to fight through identical motivational issues.
“We were both coming off of prom,” Chiero said. “So we knew both teams would be a little on the tired side and I thought we ended up being a little more energetic and pumped than they were. I know as a senior, I wanted to come out and play the best game I could.”
Fremd (18-5-2) got a goal in each half from Alexis Tice and Kotsakis in placing fourth, to go with a pair of second-place state finishes in 2007 and 2009. Keller now has a 181-65-22 record in 11 seasons as head coach, while Franco is now 80-40-12 in 6 years as the Cougars’ head coach. Conant placed fourth in Illinois two seasons ago.
Unfortunately for both coaches, they watched their teams suffer 1-0 losses in Friday’s semifinals.
Conant earned a 17-6 edge in shots taken in its loss to eventual state runner-up Naperville North (18-6-1), but North’s goal scored in the game’s 4th minute dictated the way the rest of the contest was played.
The Cougars had most of the ball to the final buzzer but couldn’t finish on a shot.
“It’s not like we didn’t have chances and that’s what you want against a team that defends that well,” Franco said. “We hit it right at her a couple of times, we missed the goal a couple of times, and it’s frustrating because we had more (scoring chances) than I thought we were going to get.
“And when a team defends that well, you don’t want to give up an early goal like that. Whoever scored the first goal was going to have a huge advantage. But I’m proud of the effort by our girls. Naperville North was just the better team today.”
Fremd’s semifinal loss came to eventual state champion Granite City (18-6) began in similar fashion, with the Warriors scoring the game’s lone goal three minutes in and then becoming the first team all season to keep Fremd scoreless in a game.
“Honestly, I thought we looked pretty focused before the game but obviously we didn’t have our game today,” Keller said. “We didn’t play to our capabilities but give Granite City all the credit in the world. They’re here for a reason and they did what they had to do.”
Per IHSA statistics, Fremd earned a 17-10 overall edge in shots, and an 8-2 edge in balls put on frame. “We had our chances and tested their keeper (Halley Robertson),” Keller said. “She had a great game and their little number 8 (Mara Keomanivane) is a very talented player. We weren’t able to match them today. We just didn’t have it today and they did.”
Fremd struck first in Saturday’ consolation game, when Tice sent her 7th goal of the year in from distance, in the game’s second minute of play. Conant answered when Chiero netted her 19th goal on a rebound shot at 24 minutes.
Chiero assisted on the goal that put Conant ahead for good at 30 minutes. Raetzman finished on her 23rd goal of the season and van de Linde scored from a tough angle on the left side just before halftime to give her side a 3-1 lead.
van de Linde scored again from a tough angle at 64 minutes before Kotsakis netted the final goal of her high school career at 77 minutes.
Conant bids farewell to 7 seniors from this year’s team in Chiero, Hailey Andress, Kelly Lomas, Lindsay Fillingim, Alyssa Rawleigh, Paige Wentzel, and Jenna Heneghan. Fremd will lose 6 seniors in Kotsakis, Tice, Jennifer Freeman, Kristin Abruscato, Bree Nishibun, and Nicole Leginski.
But none of their opponents will shed any tears for either program, which will face high expectations again next year.
“Every year you lose seniors and every year you’re not sure who will step up in their places,” Kotsakis said. “But you have to know that everyone on the team is getting better each year, and just come out strong. We have a lot of sophomores and juniors so we should have a strong team next year.”
Conant will return juniors Raetzman, van de Linde, Kelsey Foss, Chrissy Rosales, Kim Trinco, Sam Armando, Juliana Ramirez, and Brittany Hoffman, sophomores Alyssa Altosino and Courtney O’Keefe, and freshmen Drew Wentzel and Bianca Madonia.
Chiero sees good things again ahead for the Cougars. “I think they’ll make another good run at it and they’ll be good for years to come,” she said. “I think they’ll be the team to beat in the conference. They just have to have fun with it and do the best they can.”
The loss of Kotsakis means a subtraction of an all-stater who scored 36 goals this season, along with an all-sectional midfielder and one of Illinois’ best ball-winners in Tice. Conant all-stater Raetzman returns but they’ll lose an all-sectional forward in Chiero.
Fremd will return juniors Shannon Norris, Emily Basten, Kelsey Beschta, Bekah Bostrom, Alyssa Kotrba, Kira Heggeland, Rebecca Freeman, and Morgan Delapa.
Sophomore Michelle Mottonen led the Vikings in assists this year with 13, and a stable of fellow sophomores return next year in Nicole Obos, Ashley McConnell, Courtney Norenberg, Jessa Rizzo, Carrie Wagner, Bri Frys, Rachel Tenuta, and Christine Piasecki.
On her way out the door, the Butler-bound Kotsakis voiced appreciation for what Keller and his program did for her in a four-year varsity career.
“He has taught me so much in the last four years,” she said. “He’s made me stronger as a player, mentally and physically. I’m so happy I had four years with him. He challenged me so much and he made me a better player.”