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Ziebarth's 97th-minute goal saves Barrington from Fremd upset bid

By Mike Garofola, 03/25/23, 2:15PM CDT


MSL West powerhouses settle for 1-1, 2 OT draw

BARRINGTON -- Maddie Ziebarth scored a late equalizer in the second overtime to extend Barrington's Mid-Suburban League unbeaten streak to 25 games and save a crucial standings point vs. Fremd in a thrilling contest Wednesday night at the host's community stadium.

The MSL version of Spain's El Clasico or Germany's Der Klassiker featured reigning league champion Barrington, ranked second in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, and longtime West Division rival Fremd, a highly placed honorable  mention team, in a vital MSL match scheduled far too early in the campaign.

One year ago, when these two league superpowers met, Barrington recorded a 3-0 victory to run its record to 7-0-0 and all but secure the division trophy. In 2021, it was a 3-2 Fillies win that kept the record clean (6-0-0) and led to yet another division crown.

Since Fremd beat the Fillies 2-1 near the end of the 2019 season, Barrington coach Ryan Stengren’s club had won 19-straight league matches before Wednesday night's draw. The Broncos remain on a 25-game league unbeaten run since that defeat. 

"It is way too early to play Steve (Keller),” said Stengren. “(Regardless) of when we play, he always has his girls ready for us: mentally; physically; and tactically. It's a game that we have to be at our best.

"(They) came out with a little more energy than we did, but we got ourselves back playing some good possession soccer. As most of the night went for us, we did some very good things, but we were never really as sharp or dangerous in the final third as we needed to be. Some of that was because of how well Fremd defended."

Fremd's head coach approved of his Vikings’ performance.

"I was real proud of the fight and effort the girls gave tonight,” Keller said. “When Barrington was really rolling, especially in the first half, it sent us on our heels defending a lot more than I would have liked. But in the end, it was our overall defensive play that was the difference tonight."

Much of the credit for that defensive posture was due, in part to the magnificent play of the Vikings' Gemma Gillespie, whom Keller moved from her spot at the 10 into the middle of his backline alongside Bella Scesniak. Together they formed a near airtight partnership while Maddie McMillan and Hanah Rosen provided terrific play on the outside.

"This game meant a lot to all of us," said Gillespie, who shared Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honors afterward with Ziebarth. “We knew it would not be an easy one, maybe our toughest of the regular-season. The entire team defended really well, especially with all of their corners, free kicks and throws.”

The Fremd junior led the way.

"Gemma was fantastic out there all night,” said Keller. “She kept things organized, settled us down and won several 1-v-1 challenges with great angled tackles to save us."

Keller opened Fremd with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Stengren opted for a 4-1-4-1.

Fremd senior midfielder Kaitlyn Rodi, who starred along the backline a year ago for the Vikings, and the Fillies junior midfielder Ziebarth each stepped in to play the six flawlessly to help keep the middle of the park safe throughout the 100 minutes.

Rodi is a ferocious and fearless player in the tackle. Ziebarth is relentless in winning aerial battles.

"My job is to win as many 50/50 balls in the air and on the ground as I can, slow the attack and distribute the ball to help our attack," said Ziebarth, who during the final hour of play alone won 19 balls in the air.

Fremd sophomore midfielder Cami Tofilon was one of the Vikings heroines on the night. She forced Fillies keeper Megan Holland into action during the early going.

On the other end of the field, Chicagoland Soccer All-State midfielder Brooke Brown redirected a Sarah Sarnowski pass just wide minutes after the Tofilon effort.

After its slow start, and as a light drizzle began to fall upon the crowd, Barrington (3-0-1, 1-0-1) saw its attack finally come alive. It featured precise movement and a high percentage of pass completions. For nearly 15 minutes, the traffic went the home side’s way.

"I really liked what we set out to do,” said Stengren, “But we fell into-this too much up the sides (thing), not moving the ball quickly and from side-to-side, and becoming one dimensional and predictable. That played right into the hands of the way Fremd defended as a team."

Kate Lubinsky headed wide after a nice bit of combination work by Chicagoland Soccer All-Staters Ellie Sanchez, and Piper Lucier in the 19th minute. Fremd’s offensive offerings offered a handful of half-chances at that point.

Barrington’s outside backs, Sanchez and freshman Jazzy Fertig, were quite active in the attack. Each pushed the pace while providing service up and over. That kept the Vikings players along the flank busy during a stretch in which Barrington had nearly 80 percent of the play.

Fremd senior Leah Saxe, who returned from club, and freshman Gwen Zimmerman, who played along the top top for long stretches on the night, helped bring the Vikings attack alive near the half hour.

Saxe, superb on both sides of the ball and willing to track back deep into her own end to defend, tackle and win 50/50s, connected twice with Zimmerman, whose efforts both went wide but not before they gave the home crowd a bit of a scare.

"Gwen is so fast and dangerous,” Gillespie said. “She is going to really help us a lot this year. And we are so happy to have Leah back with us; she means so much to us in the midfield."

Added Keller: "While Gemma and Scesniak gave us so much in the back tonight, Saxe and Rodi played hard from start-to-finish and did so many good things for us."

Both before and after the Zimmerman attempts, Barrington had two good chances to grab the opener. Both were thwarted by Gillespie.

The first came when Brown and Lucier joined an advance toward the box in a 3-v-2. If not for one of the angled tackles from Gillespie Keller spoke of, Lucier would have been in on Vikings keeper Emily Gordon.

In the 36th minute, Gillespie again was the savior with a sharp tackle on Lubinsky. That led to a Fillies corner and an eventual save from Gordon on Sanchez.

The Fillies recorded 17 corner kicks in the match. The staggering total was not lost on anyone.

"It was good that we were able to get all of those corners,” said Sarnowski, who a year ago bagged eight goals and added 10 assists. “To not convert on any of them until our last is something we have to get better at," 

Fremd saw the other side of the equation.

"We did a great job of defending their corners, but that is way too many. We'll have to get better at that," said Scesniak, who continues to be a tremendously versatile asset for the Vikings.

After the break, it was clear that Fremd’s intent was more energy, pace and desire, especially in its challenges, where the visitors were lacking in the opening period.

It failed to yield quality on frame and kept things goal-less. But the scoring vacuum increased the game's intensity and teams' purpose.

A long free kick from near the midline by Barrington newcomer Roos VanRoekel ended with an Emily Gordon save on Lubinsky, after Ziebarth kept the ball alive inside the box in the 46th minute.

Another VanRoekel long ball spilled freely inside the six and led to a collision between the Cornell University-bound Brown and  Gordon. Brown was booked despite stepping on the brakes ahead of her challenge in the 57th minute.

During the final 20 minutes of regulation, it appeared neither side felt the luxury of taking that decisive step forward, perhaps due to the superb defensive backlines or maybe because of the lack of continuity in their early season attacks.

"I know for us, it's clear we have a long way to go,” said Stengren. “We never really created much of anything through the run of play with Fremd clogging up the middle of the field. We didn't adjust to that by switching the point of attack, or getting the ball into the top of the box where it was wide open."

"It was hard fought -- no doubt," began Keller. “We were much better collectively with our defense, and we'll need to get better at freeing up Gwen up-top and finding our players in the middle. It was tough out there all night long, and Barrington is a very good team."

Both keepers had an easy time of it for the most part. Fremd’s Gordon had to be at her best when she pushed a 30-yard free kick blast from VanRoekel up and onto the roof in the 69th minute.

Her counterpart Holland made a quick decision to come off her line to win a 50/50 with Zimmerman, who was sent through by Saxe in the 75th minute.

Once into the first extra session, Barrington added a pair of corners into the scorebook, one coming after a Gordon save on Lucier in the 84th minute.

Four minutes later, Stengren said confusion, and a brief moment of lax defending led to the Fremd opener. Cami Tofilon burst into the Fillies box, where she was brought down from behind. The visitors took an 88th-minute lead thanks to Gillespie's spot kick, which she steered in with ease.

"Gemma wanted to take it. So, we let her have at it," said Keller.

In the frantic final few minutes of the contest, Barrington was unable to pry open their opponent, who defended with all their might.

Ziebarth punished the Vikings in the 97th minute with her glancing header from Sarnowski's near-perfect corner. It dashed the upset hopes of the visitors, and delivered a crucial point in the table to Barrington at night's end.

"Sarah just gave me an amazing ball at the back post, and I did everything I could to get a head on it," said Ziebarth.

Added Sarnowski: "We're happy to come out with a draw, but I don't think any of us are happy with our overall play." 

“It was a fair result," said Scesniak, who praised Tofilon and freshmen Lily Mayer for their efforts on the night. “We obviously wanted the three points, but we showed we could play with one of the best in the state, and now we just have to keep working to get ourselves even better.”

"It was like a heavyweight boxing match out there tonight,” offered Keller. “We took our fair share of punches to the midsection, but when we were able to get a few shots in of our own, I thought we took the play back in our favor.

"We survived (numerous) corners, but unfortunately, their last one was the best struck corner of the night. Despite the draw, I am very proud of all of our girls.”

On Friday, Fremd won a key MSL West Division battled with a 1-0 victory at Conant to improve to 2-1-1 overall and 1-0-1 in conference. After a spring break break, the Vikings return to action against Rolling Meadows and Elk Grove on back-to-back nights beginning April 4.

The Fillies (3-0-1, 1-0-1) resume play after spring break at reigning MSL East champion Prospect on April 5.

The specter of the draw vs. Fremd may be hard to shake.

"Maybe if we scored first, we kind of come out of slow start tonight. I don't really know,” Stengren said. “One thing we showed was a lot of resiliency, especially after they got their goal in overtime.

"We didn't really create any clear-cut chances to challenge their keeper, even when the play was tilted in our favor, but it's early. The girls know there's a lot of work to do, and I know they're up to the challenge."


Starting lineups

Fremd (4-2-3-1)
G- Emily Gordon
D- Maddie McMillan
D- Gemma Gillespie
D- Bella Scesniak
D- Hanah Rosen
M- Cami Tofilon
M- Kaitlyn Rodi
M- Ava Catherall
M- Leah Saxe
M- Lia DiGirolamo
F- Gwen Zimmerman

Barrington (4-1-4-1)
G- Megan Holland
D- Ellie Sanchez
D- Roos VanRoekel
D- Meredith McGreevy
D- Jazzy Fertig
M- Maddy Ziebarth
M- Sarah Sarnowski
M- Brooke Brown
M- Kaitlin Taylor
M- Katie Lubinsky
F- Piper Lucier

Chicagoland Soccer MVPs of the Match: Gemma Gillespie, jr., D, Fremd;  Maddy Ziebarth, jr., MF, Barrington

Referee: Rick Gaeti

Scoring summary

First half
No scoring

Second half
No scoring

First overtime
Fremd: Gillespie (PK), 88'

Second overtime
Barrington: Ziebarth (Sarnowski) 97'