Waubonsie defied predictions in 2010
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By Gary Larsen
Hannah Klancic was enjoying the game she and her team had just played, hugging her parents, all of them crying and laughing over the two goals she scored in the 3-0 win over Carl Sandburg that gave Waubonsie Valley a Class 3A state title.
But the secret behind Waubonsie Valley’s third state title in four years was revealed when Klancic was interrupted from the personal moment of celebration with her family to answer a few questions.
Klancic was most animated not by her contribution to Saturday's win, but instead over what Allison Fox, Mary Wright, Colleen Gorkis, Rachel Miller, and Kerri Skotnicki have contributed all year long.
“Whatever I can say about our defense isn’t nearly enough,” Klancic said, wiping the moisture from her eyes. “Please give them credit. They don’t get the credit they deserve.”
Team unity is pivotal in girls’ soccer, and Warriors coach Julie Bergstrom is a master at bringing her players together to play as a selfless, cohesive unit. You don’t coach three state title-winning teams in four years, and go 97-5-6 in the process, without knowing what levers to pull and which buttons to press.
“Bergstrom draws us in as a team, on and off the field,” Warriors’ junior Jessica Price said. “She has her ways, whether it’s a video about something or a snack somewhere after practice, she really helps us out. She gets us through the season.”
For four years, senior Vanessa DiBernardo has seen the work that goes into building a dynasty in girls’ soccer.
“It’s the amount of effort and time she puts into the team, and in making us want to work and be the best that we can be,” DiBernardo said of her coach. “She puts a ton of effort into this team.”
The defense stands tall
To Klancic’s point, the Warriors’ defense has been nothing short of spectacular this year, posting 20 shutouts that included Friday’s 2-0 semifinal win over Glenbrook South. The girls in back only gave up 10 goals through a 23-1-4 season in 2010.
For a back line that finished the year with 9 shutouts in its final 10 games, the defensive philosophy throughout has been a simple one: “No shots,” Fox said.
Fox did her part early on in the title game, charging out to the 18 and sliding to stuff a shot on the foot of Sandburg’s best attacking player, senior Allie Osoba.
Osoba netted 17 goals for this year’s 23-3-1 Eagles. “I just knew I had to take my chances and do what I can,” Fox said. “I just took a chance on that play.”
For the first 20 minutes of the title game, Waubonsie’s defense had to be on its game against a Sandburg attack that was arguably having the better of play. The Eagles were playing physical soccer in hounding All-American DiBernardo around the field at North Central College, and spending their share of time with the ball on Waubonsie’s half of midfield.
Cue the defense, which kept Fox well-protected whenever Sandburg threatened. “We stuck together. We played pretty good defense this year and we stuck together as a team,” Wright said. “We bonded as a team, we communicated well, and we did everything we needed to do in practice and then it showed up in the games.”
“We just all understand how everyone moves and works,” Gorkis said. “Sometimes I like to push up and they’ll cover for me – Mary will cover and pull someone else back, and I know Mary will always have my back. And Kerri and Rachel on the outsides just work their butts off, all the time.”
Talented Waubonsie freshman Jenna Romano slid to the back line at the end of the Warriors’ 2-0 semifinal win over Glenbrook South on Friday, and she started in back against Sandburg, with Gorkis moved up to midfield.
“Rotating people around sometimes helps get a different flow to the game, just to get a different mix of kids,” said Gorkis, who eventually slid back while Romano moved back to midfield.
With junior Megan Green and DiBernardo working hard in the final third, freshman Rachele Armand and sophomore Shannon Donelson on the outside at midfield, and senior Chelsea Stoeckigt in the middle, the Warriors fought to establish their attack after Sandburg’s early push.
DiBernardo’s speed and skill resulted in 23 goals and 11 assists this season, and she shrugged off the Eagles’ physical approach to slowing her down. “Sometimes I get frustrated but actually, today, it didn’t even faze me,” DiBernardo said.
Price’s big goal
Carl Sandburg victimized St. Charles North 3 times on corner kicks in winning its semifinal on Friday. The Eagles were unable to convert on any of the handful of corner kicks they earned against the Warriors.
In fact, five minutes before halftime, DiBernardo earned a corner kick and made the Eagles pay, sending in a ball that Price buried to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead.
“It was a perfect ball,” Price said. “I was making my back post run like I usually make, and (DiBernardo) put the ball right on my head. It was a perfect corner and she found me.”
A goal can elevate the team that scores it and deflate the team that gives it up, and that’s the effect that Price’s goal seemed to have in the title game.
“It definitely stepped up the intensity for us, and we needed to get going. We needed to get a goal to put them on their heels, and pick up our intensity,” Price said. “It boosted us up really well.”
“Once we got a goal I think it broke them down a little,” Klancic said. “They started yelling at each other and it seemed like they got frazzled. And I think we definitely took advantage of that.”
The second half
After Osoba suffered a leg injury in the first half, the senior struggled her way to the final buzzer. Waubonsie ultimately earned a 7 to 5 edge in shots on net over the Eagles, with each team sending 5 shots wide of net for the game.
Klancic’s two goals came late to ice the game, starting in the 70th minute on an unassisted effort. Armand sent Klancic a pass that she buried three minutes later, and both coaches sent in mass substitutions as the final buzzer approached.
The usual on-field madness of winning a state title occurred, with Warriors piling onto each other before being dragged to the awards stand to get their medals and receive their program's third state title trophy.
“I really didn’t know if we could do it, but everyone else didn’t think we would make it here,” Gorkis said. “Everyone was doubting us. We were the underdogs the entire time. Beating Naperville North (3-0 on April 12) was awesome because they were expected to be awesome this season. I guess that was the point where we were like ‘we can do this. This is our season’. We really wanted it from then on.”
The star exits
DiBernardo left a soccer field in a Waubonsie Valley uniform for the last time with little time left in Saturday’s title game. She’ll don a University of Illinois uniform in the fall and leaves Waubonsie's program as the only player to play on three state title-winning teams.
DiBernardo was a key piece of the program’s state title runs in 2007 and 2008. Last year’s team graduated 8 players now playing college soccer, so no one figured this year’s Warriors could pull off another state title. And for DiBernardo, that made Saturday’s title win taste just a little bit sweeter than the other two state titles she helped win.
“It’s definitely more satisfying, especially since we were placed lower in the state rankings at the beginning of the year,” DiBernardo said. “It was just proving to everyone that we could do it.”
Debbie Keller (1990-93) is Waubonsie Valley’s all-time career leader with an outlandish 143 goals and 92 assists, but no player during Bergstrom’s 10 years at the helm has put up bigger numbers than DiBernardo. She finished her four-year career with 73 goals and 46 assists, for a total of 192 points that puts her ahead of former Warriors Kristen Zmijewski (170) and Bri Rodriguez (159).
But DiBernardo’s numbers aren’t what her teammates will remember.
“Vanessa DiBernardo – I don’t even know how to describe her,” Price said. “She’s wonderful. She’s the most humble person I know. She’s amazing, on and off the soccer field. She’s always there for you, she’s a great friend, and she’s always there to give you a perfect ball, as you could see in every game this season.”
The Warriors will graduate 5 seniors from this year’s roster, including starters DiBernardo, Fox, and Stoeckigt, who netted a goal in the Warriors’ semifinal win over Glenbrook South on a Price assist. Green netted the other goal in that game on a feed from Donelson.
Armand had 10 goals and 6 assists this year, Green posted 12 goals and 7 assists, and Klancic had 6 goals and 10 assists this season. All will return next year to follow up a season in which a team facing reasonable doubts made believers out of everyone by season’s end.
"We worked as a team and we got through it,” Price said. “We took it one game at a time, and I knew that if we came together and played like we knew how to play, we could get this far. And we did. We proved everybody wrong.”
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