The girls' soccer season is a wrap, punctuated by Naperville North's 1-0 dramatic win over St. Charles North, courtesy of junior midfielder Christa Szalach's goal in the fourth overtime Saturday night at North Central College in Naperville.
First-year coach Steve Goletz talked of the blessing of stepping into such a high profile and elite program. The Huskies, after all, had reached the Class 3A state final the year before.
Still, the Huskies' 2012 run was truly impressive, given how they negotiated a brutal regular-season that included two victories over top-ten programs Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley; victories over Barrington, Lyons, eventual third-place finisher Downers South and Metea Valley. (They also beat Neuqua Valley a third time in their own sectional and ousted a very good Lockport team in the sectional final). The only loss to their 24-1-2 campaign came, on penalty kicks, to rival Naperville Central. They also tied the Redhawks during their conference match up and also top-ten program Plainfield North.
Here's the scary part. The Huskies could be even better next year.
Sure, they graduate three great players in first-team all-area defender Jen Korn (Northwestern), keeper Allison Hitchcock and indispensable midfielder Hunter Drendel. (It was her back tap that created the necessary breathing space for Szalach to launch her state title game-winner.) Otherwise, the nucleus of the state championship team returns. Most prominently, the Huskies welcome back their leading scorer and first-team all-area performer Zoe Swift, who scored 25 goals. Freshman forward Abbie Boswell, the team's second leading scorer with 12 goals and 12 assists, is a superstar in the making, as is her classmate Kayla Sharples, a rangy and athletic 5-11 defender. Cora Climo, who registered six goals and nine assists, junior midfielder Emily Bromagen, sophomore midielder Meghan Lee, junior midfielder Maria Grygelski and sophomore midfielder Abby Mafefrida are each returning.
State runner-up St. Charles North also looks to be as formidable next year as coach Ruth Vostal returns most of her key players, save for leading scorer Lauren Koehl and defender Lisa Manski. Junior midfielder Natalie Winkates (11 goals, eight assists), defender Alex Gage, junior midfielder Kelly Manski (10 goals, 12 assists) and sophomore forward Sophie Pohl (seven goals) all have high school eligibility remaining.
April Cronin, second team all-area, who led fourth-place Glenbrook South with 26 goals, is the most prominent of the Titans' returning players.
For Downers South, their 2-1 victory over the Titans ended an era, the remarkable 28-year coaching run of Barry Jacobson. The third-place finish was the fifth state trophy Jacobson secured during his time at Downers South. His best team was his 1993 25-2 program that lost to Schaumburg in the Class AA state final. He ended his career with a record of 489-58-57. The Mustangs enter a more uncertain period, given the three primary offensive players, Sarrah Ludwig, Flo Beshiri and Jessica Bronke, are seniors.
Likewise, Class 2A state champion St. Francis graduates its two leading playmakers, Sydney Fox and Amanda Gaggioli. Coach Jim Winslow returns a strong group in midfielder Sarah Rahman, midfielder Katie Ramsey, forward Emma Fickle, forward Courtenay Hart, forward Andrea Ravlin, forward Taylor Van Thournout, midfielder Anna VonderHaar and the dynamite Bucaros, forward Kaity and defender Taylor.
Other teams that welcome back key personnel next year are: Loyola, New Trier, Barrington, Naperville Central, Metea Valley, Waubonsie Valley and Plainfield North.