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Preview story: Barrington, Fremd meet in key early MSL showdown

By Mike Garofola, 03/21/23, 12:00PM CDT


It has become one of the biggest fixtures on the soccer calendar every spring: Barrington versus Fremd. This early edition of the rivalry will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Barrington Community Stadium.

The reigning Mid-Suburban League champion Broncos (2-0-0) have excelled in both league play and the postseason for what likely seems an eternity. Last year no different when the Broncos beat the Vikings 3-0 to all but end the hopes of Kaitlyn Rodi and her teammates of ending an 11-year stranglehold on the MSL West Division and a 10-year streak of league titles.

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"Barrington has been the team to beat, and they're obviously a big rival of ours, but I feel like we'll be ready for this game. We know it will be hard fought, and tight," says Rodi, who a year ago was part of a terrific Vikings backline. In the early going this season, she lines up at the six for manager Steve Keller.

"In our first two games, we've pretty much played in a 4-3-3, but with Barrington probably playing three up-top, we'll likely change to a 3-5-2. (But) with Keller, there's always the chance we switch into something else before, or during the game." 

The Vikings senior, wherever she plays, performs with high energy and a superior work-rate. She is a diligent protector of the final third and a relentless, ferocious tackler. On offense, she displays quality at distribution.

"We lost Shannon Moran, who was just great for us in the back,” said Rodi. “But we have Maddie (McMillan) who returned, plus Bella (Scesniak), who played a lot in the middle last year. She has been moved back to play alongside Maddie as our center backs."

The Vikings also graduated Chicagoland Soccer All-State forward Lily Spotak (Eastern Michigan). Rodi feels freshman Gwen Zimmerman can pick up slack up-top.

"Gwen is an insane with the ball on her foot, plus she's quick and fast. I know she will be so valuable to us in this game and all season long," said Rodi, who will attend San Diego State to start the pursuit of a degree in environmental science, and perhaps play club soccer.

Rodi has given back to the soccer community. On Sunday mornings she works as an instructor with fledgling soccer players from 18 months to seven years old at Lil' Kickers.

Wednesday will be all about taking down Barrington, which is ranked second in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25. 

"We had a tough loss in our season opener (3-1 to no. 7 St. Charles East, March 14),” said Rodi. “But it was kind of a wake-up call for all of us to see where we're at here at the start, and what we need to continue to work on.

“We came out the next day to put five on the scoreboard in a 5-2 win over Lake Zurich," continued Rodi, who at times this season may be part of a double six partnership alongside junior Gemma Gillespie, who regularly plays the 10 for the Vikings.

One thing Rodi and her senior counterpart at Barrington, defender Ellie Sanchez, agree on is that despite the importance of earning three points, and at the very least one, the eventual outcome of this highly anticipated contest will not make or break the season for either club.

"Expectations are always high here at Barrington as we begin each new season. This year is no different," began Sanchez, who was a 2022 Chicagoland Soccer All-State player for manager Ryan Stengren. “Despite this game with Fremd coming so early in the year, we always look to get better each and everyday we're together.

"I think we're all excited about playing Fremd, but we also know this is just one of many important games for us this season. This one just happens to come right at the start of the new season."

Sanchez has been an impact player for her club ever since donning the Broncos kit. She has become a sensational leader from her left outside back position. She plays at an exceptionally high level for 80 minutes.

Highly regarded for her offensive capabilities, Sanchez can create chances with her intense bursts of speed down the wing and inch-perfect service. Her defense features a high soccer IQ she uses to read and react in order to protect her goal to near perfection.

"We have a lot of players back with us this year, but there's also several players new to the varsity. There's a lot for all of us to learn as we look to achieve the goals we set forth before the start of the season," said Sanchez, who looked seriously at After taking a serious look several universities for her future athletic and academic careers Sanchez committed to play at North Dakota State.

"I really liked Davidson and Furman. But when I stepped onto the campus at NDSU, I knew immediately it was the right place for me," said Sanchez, who knows a former Bronco on campus -- quarterback and redshirt freshman Peter Anderson, who led Barrington to a conference title in 2021.

"I'll look to major in marketing with the goal of going into sports media," she said.

Sanchez was part of one of the stingiest back-fours in recent Broncos history with teammates Kathleen Baker, Caitlin Paul and Grace Stagnito. The group conceded just seven goals during its 3A state runnerup season that featured a 24-3-0 mark.

Baker, Paul, and Stagnito have graduated, leaving Sanchez to lead a fresh new unit in front of a deep and talented trio of keepers.

The Broncos, ranked second in both the Chicagoland Soccer First 50 and Top 25 polls, opened their season with a 2-0 win over No. 12 Naperville North, followed by a 2-1 victory against then no. 8 St. Charles North. Their league debut at Schaumburg on Monday produced a 5-0 victory.

"We're still in the stage of getting to know each other. We are far from a finished product, while doing our best to maximize our potential," said Stengren, now in his 14th year as manager.

Despite the new faces that can be found throughout his roster, Stengren does have an impressive array of talent back with the club including: 2022 Chicagoland Soccer All-Staters Piper Lucier and First Team member Brooke Brown (Brown), Sarah Sarnowski, Kaitlin Taylor and Kate Lubinsky.

This quintet listed above accounted for 63 goals, and 54 helpers a year ago.

The Fillies also have a ridiculously strong stable of keepers. Seniors Abby Raynor, a returning Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater, and Avery Trapp, and sophomore Megan Holland will make sure Barrington is as hard to score against, as it is to keep off the scoreboard.