Huskies fall short to Granite City for Class 3A championship
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By Curt Herron
After putting together a memorable postseason run where it consistently stymied opposing attacks, Naperville North got the tables turned on it in its finale.
Granite City took a page right out of the Huskies' book by coming up with the only score and then effectively running out the remaining time on the clock.
The Warriors connected for a long goal just 23 seconds before the break and then limited North to only a few good chances during the final 40 minutes of play.
That combination resulted in Granite claiming its first state title in the sport thanks to a 1-0 win in Saturday's Class 3A championship at Naperville Central.
A low-scoring finale came as no real surprise for a pair of squads who combined to allow just three goals during their respective runs through the playoffs.
Kaitlin Becherer collected the lone tally as the first half was winding down when she lined in a shot from about 25 yards out that eluded keeper Abby Green.
The 1-0 final result tied single-class title matches from 1990 and 1991 as the only times that such a score was posted in a large school state championship.
North (18-6-1), which had won nine straight matches, was making its first championship appearance since 1998 and was in search of its first title since 1988.
Instead, Granite (20-6) won its last 10 and captured its first title in any girls sport at the school, which has a record 10 championships in boys soccer.
"I couldn't be more proud of our group," Huskies coach Brent Terada said. "They worked hard and battled and created opportunities and that's the way that soccer goes.
"We did it to a couple of teams along the way where they created opportunities and couldn't finish. So it's hard for me to say that it's unfair when it happens to us.
"It was a great run and a wonderful experience. We didn't walk away with the trophy we wanted but the kids worked hard and played for each other, which is all we ask for."
The Huskies had allowed just one goal in the postseason, to York in the super-sectional. Granite's score marked the first time they trailed in the playoffs.
"Great teams force you to answer questions and to solve issues," Terada said. "And I thought we did a pretty even job of negating a lot of the good things that they did.
"It just came down to kind of a fluky shot from the outside, but that's the way that soccer is. In the state finals, I guess that any shot that goes in is a great shot.
"It was a shot from a tough angle and we stepped in hard and did everything right but the ball just floated in. That's unfortunate for us, but congratulations to them."
After heading into the break on a high following their unexpected goal, the Warriors did a nice job of mixing just enough offense with an effective defense.
Although they only sent one attempt to Green (3 saves) during the final 40 minutes, they frequently had possession of the ball in North's end of the field.
Granite was also assessed a series of yellow cards but their fouls mostly resulted in long free kicks and throw ins which the Huskies couldn't benefit from.
North was credited with only three shots on goal against Warrior keeper Halley Robertson and thought it produced more chances, most weren't that threatening.
One of the Huskies' best opportunities came in the 56th minute when Cora Climo sent a corner kick inside and Adrienne Schertz managed to get off a close try.
The Warrior keeper got a hand on the attempt but couldn't stop it, however one of her defenders, Paige Luehmann, managed to eventually clear the loose ball.
Not long after the midway mark of the final half, Kirsten Anderson was denied on a long free kick and then Green hauled in an attempt from Lindsey Godier.
During the final five minutes, Hunter Drendel was stopped following a free kick from Anderson and then Zoe Swift saw her late shot try also get halted.
"I'm really proud of all of the girls since we did everything that we could as a team," Schertz said. "We did our best, but unfortunately it wasn't good enough tonight.
"Granite City played really well. We knew that they were really good so we had to come out as hard as we could. Unfortunately we couldn't get forward enough to score.
"I think a lot of people underestimated us but we did really well throughout the whole run of the playoffs. The future looks really really bright in the years to come."
There weren't many chances during the initial 20 minutes of the match, with Ashley Deckard's long liner to Green in the 17th minute being the exception.
Just after the midpoint, Drendel got a touch on a pass and the ball dribbled to Robertson in one of North's last good first-half opportunities.
Granite got a header from Natalie Crane in the 37th minute that Green stopped, but there was little she could do on Becherer's initial goal of the year.
The Huskies graduate eight seniors from this year's squad, including five who were included in the starting lineup for Saturday's championship match.
That group includes co-captains Jamie Meno and Schertz plus Kaileen Debenham, Anderson and Green. Other seniors are Tori Novak, Brie Siebert and Alex Wernette.
Five sophomores and a junior also started for the Huskies against Granite City, leading to plenty of optimism for the program over the next two seasons.
"We went hard and gave a full effort through all 80 minutes," Meno said. "We had a lot of chances but were unfortunate to not to get one in while they got a goal.
"It was tough to see them score right before halftime. They were a really good team and didn't let us have a lot of chances. They made us work hard for everything.
"It's hard not to dwell on the fact that we didn't take first but we went really far. There's great kids returning so I'm excited about coming back to watch them."