Several years ago, St. Francis was up big late against Riverside-Brookfield in a conference match.
“I’m not sure how much time was left, maybe eight or nine minutes, and we had a kid who hadn’t played in nine or 10 years, and I asked her if she wanted to play,” St. Francis coach Jim Winslow said.
“She said ‘Yeah, I’d love to.'” At this point she grabs her gloves and runs on the field like it was hockey. We’re yelling at her, and she keeps running toward the goal.
“The ref had his back turned, and the linesman on our side started to crack up. It was one of the moments that was pure high school, a moment where you had to appreciate a kid who hasn’t played in 10 years and just wants to get on the field.”
At the time, Winslow knew Riverside-Brookfield coach Ivek Halik from the club circuit. He liked the Bulldogs leader even more after that unforgettable incident in 2021, a season in which the Spartans beat the Bulldogs twice by a score of 5-0. Last year, the Bulldogs won 2-0.
“(Halik) earned a lot of respect from me that day, and he’s done a good job there,” Winslow said. “I don’t know what his feeder system is like. The hard part for them is they go into 3A next week. They’ll do ok; but at 3A they’re not a big school and are not a Naperville school.”
The teams’ annual meeting this season, at 7 p.m. tonight in Wheaton, year comes with a conference title on the line.
Riverside-Brookfield (14-4-1, 4-0-x) hasn’t lost to a squad without Downers Grove in its name in 50 days. The Bulldogs suffered early losses to Class 3A third place finisher Lincoln-Way Central and Andrew (in the fifth place game) in mid-March in the 32-team Windy City Ram Classic.
The Bulldogs have won five straight and have more than doubled up their opponents with a 58-26 scoring advantage. Hazel Hall, Ella Caputo and Niamh Larson have been dangerous offensive weapons this spring and will look to continue to bury the ball in the back of the net or set up a teammate to do so Tuesday night.
They’ll have to win league honors on the road, where they are 6-3-0 on the season.
St. Francis (9-4-0, 4-0-x) has won six-straight games and outscored opponents 50-25.
Riverside-Brookfield is coming off a lopsided 10-0 win over St. Edward on May 4 after winning a 2-1 thriller over Wheaton Academy on May 2.
St. Francis saw its five-match shutout streak broken in a 6-1 win over Bishop McNamara on May 4. They blanked Elmwood Park, Timothy Christian, Westmont, Wheaton Academy and Chicago Christian during their great run of dominant play.
“I imagine it’ll be a good game,” Winslow said. “We’re happy to be at home. It will be interesting. We were originally supposed to play right after spring break. I don’t remember if it was us in a tournament or both of us in a tournament (for the reason the game was postponed).”
This championship game, however, figures to be unforgettable.