ARLINGTON HEIGHTS – The Mid-Suburban League Soccer Cup is the longest running league final in the state history.
And the exploits of Barrington in the Cup have been nothing short of historic. The Fillies entered the 33rd edition Wednesday having claimed the league's top prize 15 times, the lost 10 in its recent, unprecedented run.
For host Hersey, the story line was one of a quick redemption of sorts. The Huskies had lost 3-1 to their foe four days earlier in a match that Barrington needed to win the West Division's bid to the match.
On a gorgeous spring Wednesday night at Roland Goins Stadium, the visiting Fillies needed extra-time dramatics from junior Maddy Ziebarth, who provided the game-winner with a thumping header in the 83rd minute to grow the streak to 11 before a big crowd.
"We saw something on video that could be wide open on corners. We tried it once before but did not execute well enough to get something on frame," began Fillies manager Ryan Stengren, who took his 303rd career victory and 12th MSL Soccer Cup title overall. Half of them have come over the Huskies since 2010.
"After regulation we told the girls if we get another corner, that we should run the same play, because the opening was still there from our earlier corner."
"Brooke (Brown) provided the perfect pass," said a modest Maddy Ziebarth. “I was lucky enough to be there to head the ball into the back of the net."
Ziebarth, who has played admirably at the six, has an incredible knack for winning back possession. She is a fierce tackler and wins aerial challenges nearly 90 percent of the time.
"Maddy has been such a pleasant surprise for us this year,” said Stengren, who turned to the junior to fill the role left by the 2022 Chicagoland Soccer and IHSSCA all-state star Nicole Gwiasda. “Her work-rate, defending and high success rate in 50/50 and second balls has made her such a valuable piece to the puzzle. She is so humble and a great teammate also.
"Nobody could replace Nicole. We didn't ask Maddy to be another Nicole, but she does so many things so well for us. Like Nicole, she wins just about everything in the midfield for us and goes about her business quietly. She has boundless energy, desire and fight just as Nicole did."
Ziebarth and Brown, another of the Fillies all-staters, shared Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honors with Hersey’s Ava Cismoski and Finley Wilcox. The choices gave proper recognition after an exciting night of championship soccer.
Ziebarth drove home her close-range effort just after Barrington (17-0-2) survived a nervous moment or two. The first came when the Hersey’s star forward Meg Mrowicki went wide with her attempt.
The second close call came in the 84th minute, when a wicked left-footed cracker from Abi Beck nearly surprised the Fillies and their faithful. It went just wide at the back post.
"It was such an intense game out there tonight," said Hersey manager Mike Rusniak, who made his second visit to the girls final since 2019, when his club dropped a 1-0 decision. “(We) came out so flat, which was frustrating to watch. That lack of energy cost us with their early goal.”
"It was a disappointing loss for all of us," began Cismoski, who along with Faith Sena drew praise from Rusniak for their hard work in the middle of the park that brought order and life back to their club. “I don't know if it was a case of nerves or what it was, but we did come out really slow tonight.”
Barrington earned their 12th minute goal after opening with some quality possession, passing and movement that kept their hosts under pressure. It was nearly derailed, however, when a Hersey counter led to close-range header from Mrowicki that forced keeper Megan Holland into a save.
Kate Lubinsky gave the visitors the lead when she ran onto a lovely cross-field early ball from 2022 all-stater Piper Lucier that made it easy for the senior to steer in the opener.
"Piper gave me a great ball to the back post. I really couldn't miss with my shot into an open net," said Lubinsky of her seventh goal off the season.
Ziebarth was the facilitator of the strike. She played a one-timer across to Lucier and inspired a happy ending for the Fillies faithful.
Barrington sought to double its advantage with Lubinsky, Lucier, Brown and Sarah Sarnowski buzzing in and around the Huskies final third. It appeared a second goal would soon arrive.
Three deep throws, a pair of corners and two long-range freekicks into the box by Roos VanRoekel made it hard for Hersey to venture out of its defensive third.
"The big atmosphere, and the nerves that come along with (it) definitely impacted our pace and overall confidence, and we were fortunate that we didn't let the game slip away from us in that first 30 minutes," said Rusniak.
"Hersey battled hard all night," said Stengren. “But we really should have put one, or maybe two into their net after Kate's goal. When you don't put away those chances, it allows your opponent to hang around until something bad happens.”
Defender Ellie Sanchez, yet another Fillies all-stater, had a half-chance saved by Alli Paulsen. The Hersey keeper stopped Lucier and Sarnowski twice more, before the senior needed to refuse a pair of well-struck efforts on frame by Brown, whose 30-yard blast at 28 minutes was the most dangerous of the bunch.
Then out of nowhere, Hersey’s Ava Cismoski stunned the Fillies when she unloaded a seeing-eye low blast from 30 yards. It traveled through a maze of shirts, then lightly skimmed the back post before settling into the back of the net.
"I'm not sure if their keeper saw my shot until the very end," said Cismoski with a smile at the recollection of her 31st-minute equalizer.
"That goal was a season highlight for us,” said Rusniak. “Ava is one of the hardest working players on the field at all times and someone who has played through injuries the last two seasons. I was thrilled for her on that goal in such a big game.
"There was a ton of emotion behind Ava's goal, and it was just what we needed. I believe it helped us feel that we could compete with Barrington the rest of the way."
"Our energy just went way up after that goal," added Cismoski, who suffered a torn ACL two years ago. “I think all of us knew we were back in the game and capable of beating them at that point.”
Cismoski will attend Connecticut in the fall, where she will look to earn a degree in biomedical engineering.
"That goal from distance by no. 11 (Cismoski) against the run of play rattled us for sure,” said Stengren. “It quickly moved the momentum around in favor of Hersey. We had to fight to keep ourselves under control and prepare ourselves for a much different second half of soccer.”
"At the break, I stressed the importance of the will-to-win mentality, and told them to hold on to their focus of not just playing in the championship, but winning it," said Rusniak.
"The (Barrington) girls were locked in, and you could tell they had embraced the moment. We followed up with a ton of energy that I knew we always had but had not fully displayed."
Barrington faced an opponent now brimming with confidence with its own bright start after the intermission. The Fillies answered back. A Lubinsky effort was pushed over the bar by Paulsen, two corners and deep throws, and a nicely played Lubinsky-Brown combination that looked promising if only a Fillies player has been at an open back post to meet a ball flashed through the box from Brown, ensued.
Chances wasted early by the visitors were the same for the Huskies, who despite not generating anything of danger on frame, still kept Barrington on high alert.
Kiki Craft, through Natalie Suto, Finley Wilcox, and starting with Anni Caliendo created a Huskies deep throw in the 53rd minute. That sequence signaled a 10-minute stretch that the home side had plenty of the play.
Sena went wide with her free kick, Abi Beck hit the outside of the netting at the far post, and a Gracie Lisota to Mrowicki counter ended with the senior firing wide of the back post.
"Meg is so dangerous,” began Stengren. “But Roos (VanRoekel) did such a great job defending an (IHSSCA) all-state player like (Meg), keeping her to no goals in the last two games we played and just one assist.
"Roos has been a great addition to our program -- coming to Barrington just a few days after arriving here from the Netherlands -- showing so much character, a strong work ethic. She has fit in so well with our girls right from the start."
VanRoekel has four goals on the season, including the game-winner in the final of the Naperville Invitational against St. Charles North.
The race to score in the final 10 minutes of regular time was as frantic as could be expected, with play opening up from both sides.
Free kicks, corners and deep throws kept the big crowd on the edge of their seats but none of what was created challenged either keeper before 80 minutes of play ran out.
Once into the first of two mandatory 10-minute overtime sessions, it was Mrowicki who went close first before Ziebarth slipped through the Huskies defense to strike.
Hersey pushed numbers forward out of necessity in the final 10 minutes of play. The Huskies sent each and every ball that came their way back into the Fillies end to keep their guests from generating anything dangerous.
Megan Holland raced off her line without hesitation to beat Mrowicki to a 50/50 early ball in the 93rd minute. During a 45-second siege, the Huskies directed a trio of balls through the Fillies box. It created a corner but nothing on frame.
A free kick from Sena and then Mrowicki were off the mark before this contest was whistled over.
"It was a great game, and despite the loss, we (now) know we can play with the best teams in the state," said Cismoski, who along with her teammates will now begin to prepare for their regional opener as the no. 6 seed against ninth-seeded regional host Mundelein (16-8-1) at 5 p.m. May 17.
"Our defense, as a unit, had their best game of the season. Finley (Wilcox) was rock solid as our center back along with (Natalie) Suto,” began Rusniak. “And our outside backs Anni Caliendo and Kiki Craft did well to keep Barrington's talented and speedy forwards from creating too much tonight.
"We've put a lot of emphasis on defending set pieces, so it was unfortunate they were able to score so easily, but we learned from that situation. Now we know we need to come out strong from here on out.
"I am so proud of these girls, and although it was tough to lose this one tonight, I know we'll be better for it going forward."
"Credit Hersey." said Lubinsky. “They played hard and with a lot of effort and energy tonight. I am very proud of the way we played and stayed composed. Now we have to get back to work to get ourselves ready for our next challenge.”
Next up for Fillies, who are the top seed in the Harlem Sectional, is no. 16-seed Auburn next Tuesday in Barrington.
The trip to Hersey was a walk down memory lane for Stengren.
"It's always an emotional time for me when we come here to play Hersey,” he said. “It's my alma mater where I played soccer and later interviewed for a job on two occasions. So I feel like I have to prove myself each time we come here to play.
"But things happen for a reason. When I got the job at Barrington, I met my wife, we now have two great kids. Our program and these girls are like my family now, so I am very fortunate in that way.
"As far as tonight, we're proud to be MSL champions once again.
"It's been a tough couple of weeks between the Naperville Invitational and that grueling final week of play, and another tough stretch leading up to this game tonight.
"This group is one that I really love. They work hard for each other, care for each other, have tremendous focus and are really fun to be around. They do it all against a schedule that I will put up against everyone else’s.
"We're dealing with some injuries lately, but we'll look to get healthy and ready for what's ahead of us."
G- Megan Holland
D- Ellie Sanchez
D- Roos VanRoekel
D- Meredith McGreevy
D- Annie Tarpey
M- Lucy Stanton
M- Maddy Ziebarth
M- Brooke Brown
F- Sarah Sarnowski
F- Piper Lucier
F- Kate Lubinsky
G- Alli Paulsen
D- Kiki Craft
D- Natalie Suto
D- Finley Wilcox
D- Anni Caliendo
M- Abi Beck
M- Faith Sena
M- Ava Cismoski
M- Gretchen Chianelli
F- Gracie Lisota
F- Meg Mrowicki
Chicagoland Soccer MVPs of the Match: Brooke Brown, sr., MF, Barrington;
Maddy Ziebarth, jr., MF, Barrington; Ava Cismoski, sr., MF, Hersey; Finley Wilcox, jr., D, Hersey
Referee: Fabio Pompa
Barrington: Lubinsky (Lucier) 12'
Hersey: Cismoski (U/A) 31'
Ziebarth (Brown) 83'