NAPERVILLE – The first nine shooters had all converted their penalty kicks, but Barrington goalkeeper Megan Holland remained confident.
“I was just ready to step up,” Holland said. “I trust it, and that’s kind of what I go with.”
Holland did "step up," diving to her right to save Reagan O’Malley’s attempt. That gave Barrington a shootout victory over Naperville North after a 1-1 regulation battle in the first Naperville Invitational semifinal Friday night at Naperville Central’s Memorial Stadium.
The Fillies (12-0-2) won the spot-kick session 5-4 after tying the game on Brooke Brown’s goal with 7:00 left in regulation.
Barrington was not surprised to see Holland cinch the match. The sophomore stopped two penalties in the shootout win over Loyola in the quarterfinals Thursday.
“We’re starting to get used to it,” Barrington coach Ryan Stengren said. “She’s setting a higher bar for herself.”
Holland is in her first year on varsity but has been playing like a veteran.
“Megan played so good,” Brown said. “I trust her with my life back there.
“She makes these crazy saves, and she’s a sophomore too. She’s had a huge impact on the team, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store in the future.”
Holland’s ability to crack the starting lineup of the third-ranked Fillies has been impressive. She’s thrived in the spotlight with the help of a bunch of savvy and welcoming older players.
“It’s great,” Holland said. “Barrington is like a family.
“The team is just so amazing. The seniors take everybody under their wing.
“Everyone is so tight with each other, because we spend so much time with each other in and outside of practice. I really feel like I’ve been a part of something big and new, like a family away from home, and it’s felt great this year.”
Beating Naperville North was a great feeling, too, one Holland knows she couldn’t have experienced alone.
“My teammates did a really great job, especially Annie (Tarpey), taking that last PK and really finishing it,” Holland said.
Tarpey, a defender, was Barrington’s final shooter. She connected on the winning finish for the second-straight match and gave the Fillies the lead for the fifth and final time in the shootout. Sarah Sarnowski, Piper Lucier, Brown and Ellie Sanchez had given their team the edge in previous rounds.
Ninth-ranked Naperville North (9-4-1) matched the Fillies shot-for-shot in the first four rounds, with Maggie Fitzgerald, Cameron DeCook, Avery Hartmann and Annie Chang converting. Then the Huskies’ luck ran out.
Barrington felt fortunate to advance. They had defeated the Huskies 2-0 in the teams’ season-opener, but this match was much closer.
“Obviously, Naperville North was an extremely good team,” Brown said. “They were super talented.
“They showed immense growth, but we showed our grit again. I’m really proud of the team for getting the result even though all of our legs are dead. I’m sure Naperville North’s legs are dead, too. I was just happy that we were able to get the result with all the energy that we had to put out there.”
So was Stengren, whose squad had to come from behind in a match in which they were outplayed for most of the second half after a listless first half that produced only one shot.
“I’m happy with our result but disappointed with the way we competed,” he said. “We didn’t really compete up to our standards. We didn’t play very well, but we found a way to win.”
That’s always been tough to do against Naperville North, which has engaged in some memorable battles with the Fillies over the years, including a shootout win in the 2019 state championship game and a 2-1 overtime win in last year’s Naperville Invitational final.
“Naperville North coach Steve (Goletz) is doing a great job, because their team has grown immensely from Day 1,” Stengren said.
Indeed, the Huskies have surpassed expectations with the way they have performed in big matches this spring. They did so again in this one despite playing for the first time without star freshman Claire DeCook, who had a team-leading 16 goals before suffering a knee injury against New Trier in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
DeCook’s senior sister Cameron scored the game-winning goal against New Trier and gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead Friday on a brilliantly executed play with Rachael Noren at the 28:59 mark of the second half.
Noren slipped a great lead up the right wing to DeCook, who took the ball into the box before slotting a shot inside the left post for her sixth goal of the season.
“Cam is always making that run,” Noren said. “Every day in practice, we work on finding that channel.
“We practiced it with Neuqua and obviously that paid off (in a 7-1 win on Tuesday). Cam was there to get that pass and then slotted it.”
That was part of a second half surge that saw the Huskies earn a 10-6 advantage in shots.
“I challenged the group at the start of the game about their mental toughness and being able to fake themselves out that they didn’t just play in an absolute fistfight the night before,” Goletz said. “And you’re going up against what I consider one of the top programs, if not the top program, in the state of Illinois year after year.
“Ryan’s kids play the right way. They don’t give you an inch. He’s got special players, but he always puts them in a spot to be as successful as possible.”
Brown was in the right spot to get the equalizer. She put it away after fellow senior Julia Tallungain let a cross from junior Sarnowski go through.
“Sarah Sarnowski got a ball out wide, and she played a perfect ball right through on the ground,” Brown said. “I was calling to Julia Tallungain, who just came off the bench and had a huge role on the field.
“I told her to dummy it, and she did exactly that. It was just a simple finish. It was a very smart play by her.”
Brown was wide open about 10 yards in front of the right post. The Cornell recruit calmly settled the ball before sending her shot inside the near post.
“I just saw there was a ton of space on the back post, and I had nobody on me. It was honestly hard to mess up, because the pass was so perfect,” Brown said. “I just trusted my gut and finished it.”
Despite the loss, Cameron DeCook was upbeat about the Huskies’ performance.
“I really don’t think we could have played better,” DeCook said. “Obviously, we made mistakes, but those happen to everybody. Those are always going to happen.
“Even with injuries, we’ve had people step in. You might not look at our team and think we have a deep bench, but I truly think you could put anybody in and they could do their part.”
That’s added up to a team that is greater than the sum of its parts, which has pleased Goletz.
“I’ve never been prouder of a group,” he said. “I told them that after the game.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play and win state championships. The growth of this group has been something that is special. It makes me so proud as a coach to watch young ladies continue to push each other and develop.
“This team cares more about each other than they care about themselves. It’s great to watch somebody buy into something bigger than themselves and see what you can do.”
This is the least-experienced team of Goletz’s 12-year tenure. Most of the others have had more talent, yet somehow the Huskies have managed to continue the program’s tradition of excellence.
“This isn’t to knock any of our kids, but everyone will tell you that on paper this team isn’t a flashy team,” Goletz said. “We don’t have the high-level college commits yet, but I will take our kids against anybody. They’ve proven it this year, and I know that they’re going to continue to prove that.”
GK: Megan Holland
D: Roos VanRoekel
D: Ellie Sanchez
D: Annie Tarpey
D: Meredith McGreevy
M: Lucy Stanton
M: Maddy Ziebarth
M: Brooke Brown
M: Madeline Lewis
F: Piper Lucier
F: Sarah Sarnowski
GK: Olivia Ochsner
D: Marina Polavieja
D: Reagan O’Malley
D: Alison Sutton
M: Audrey Hartmann
M: Maggie Fitzgerald
M: Jacey Sturek
M: Rachael Noren
F: Annie Chang
F: Abby Penn
F: Cameron DeCook
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Megan Holland, so., GK, Barrington
Naperville North: Cameron DeCook (Rachael Noren) 28:59 remaining
Barrington: Brooke Brown (Sarah Sarnowski) 7:00 remaining
Barrington: Sarah Sarnowski (goal), Piper Lucier (goal), Brooke Brown (goal), Ellie Sanchez (goal), Annie Tarpey (goal).
Naperville North: Maggie Fitzgerald (goal), Cameron DeCook (goal), Avery Hartmann (goal), Annie Chang (goal), Reagan O’Malley (saved).