Huskies blank Titans to earn return trip to state title match
By Curt Herron
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Two of the biggest reasons that Naperville North has enjoyed such a successful season were once again on display Friday evening.
And not surprisingly, the scoring ability of Zoe Swift and the lock-down efficiency of the Huskies' defense resulted in a victory.
North used two goals from Swift as well as a shutout from its defense to defeat Glenbrook South 2-0 in the Class 3A semifinals at North Central College.
With the victory, the Huskies (23-1-2) earned their second straight trip to a championship match, which is also the fourth in the program's rich history.
A year after finishing as the runner-up to Granite City, North takes on St. Charles North (19-5-2) in Saturday's 7 p.m. championship match in Naperville.
The North Stars overcame an early goal to Downers Grove South to capture a 2-1 win in the second semifinal match. It's their first title trip since 2004.
Coach Steve Goletz's Huskies hope to become just the third team in state history to finish second one season and then win the championship the next year.
Libertyville pulled off the feat during the single-class days in 1990-1991 while New Trier duplicated that accomplishment in Class AA in 2005-2006.
The Huskies' only state title was captured in 1988 when they beat Maine South to claim top honors in the initial tournament under coach Al Harris.
Swift put North up for good in the 25th minute and then added her 25th goal of the season in the 62nd minute to account for the match scoring.
Meanwhile, North's defense limited the Titans (21-5-4) to just four shots on goal, all of which were hauled in by keeper Allison Hitchcock.
It was the 15th shutout of the season for the Huskies, who've only allowed 10 goals all year, including no more than one during any contest.
Another stellar defensive effort effectively put the clamps on coach Seong Ha's team, which entered with an impressive 15-match win streak.
After making it their mission to get back to the finals, the Huskies have accomplished that feat and now want to finish with the big trophy.
"What a special feeling for these kids to get back here two years in a row," Goletz said. "Obviously there's unfinished business from last year and they're focused as a group.
"I couldn't be luckier to have a group of kids who have such a great outlook on a season and worked to where they wanted to get to. Hopefully we can take care of business tomorrow.
"I told the kids that they'd be in for a fight since Glenbrook South is a great team with some great players who are well-coached. I told the kids we needed to score the first goal."
The first-year Huskies coach, who succeeded Brent Terada in that position, was again understandably proud of his team's defensive effort.
"Everybody knows that we've done a pretty good job defensively this year and the kids work so hard and our back four is so organized," Goletz said. "Jill (Van Kampen), Anna (Prescott), Kayla (Sharples) and Jen (Korn) really locked them down today.
"None of the four kids in the back played there last year so talk about stepping up. But that's Naperville North. The fact that we're able to continue to produce great players in this program is a testament to the girls and their hard work.
"And then on top of that we have Emily (Bromagen), Christa (Szalach), Abby (Mangefrida) and Maria (Grygleski) in the middle and Hunter (Drendel) and Cora (Climo) out wide. Our block of eight is tough to break down and they showed that tonight."
And it also doesn't hurt to have a talent such as Swift leading the attack, as was clearly seen in the team's biggest victory thus far.
"I'm very lucky to have someone like Zoe on my team," Goletz said. "Talk about somebody who can take a game over and she took the game over. When she's able to do that, we're awfully tough to beat.
"I haven't seen a better individual goal in high school soccer than her second one today. To bring it down the way she did, turn that defender, to carry and hold that girl off and then slot it far post was a world-class goal."
Swift sent only three shots toward Titan keeper Emma Sailer and a pair of them found the mark, including the first good chance of the match.
Shortly after Abbie Boswell sent the ball to Swift, the Huskies junior fired in a shot from about 20 yards out to put her side up for good.
"This team was tough on the ball and wouldn't let us turn easily to play pretty soccer," Swift said. "So we just had to find a way to get around them. It wasn't the prettiest soccer, but we got the job done.
"It was frustrating at first since we weren't connecting on our passes but after I scored, we got it going and the momentum changed and we started dominating.
"Last year we got here and didn't do so well, so this year we're determined that we have to get a win in the last game."
The Huskies really began to apply considerable pressure during the final half, getting most of their 12 shots, seven of which were on goal.
Christa Szalach, Cora Climo and Hunter Drendel were all denied shortly after the break to set the tone for North during the last 40 minutes.
Prior to the half's midpoint, Swift had a line drive thwarted and sent a shot off the post while Jen Korn's free kick was halted by Sailer.
Shortly after Boswell was stopped on a try, Swift got free and drove downfield, then stopped before finally connecting for her second goal.
North's defense effectively shut down the Titan's April Cronin (26 goals this year), who managed just a pair of shots on goal in the match.
"In most sports, defense doesn't get most of the credit," Korn said. "But I think our defense does a good job of keeping each other supported. We have bullet points before every game and one is always to get a shutout, so it's a huge focus.
"I didn't play last year so this is all new to me and it's so fun to be a part of this atmosphere. They made it to the state finals last year so I knew it was hard to do much better but I wanted to do anything to make this a better season."