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State finals preview: Class 3A

By Curt Herron, 06/01/23, 9:30PM CDT


There are some great story lines at this weekend's Final Four. They include: one team trying to win its second state title in three seasons; another that is seeking its first championship since 2001 and third overall; and another that hopes to take top honors in its maiden voyage. 

Still, its hard to imagine any squad has more motivation than last year's state runner-up.

Barrington (22-0-2) returns 12 players from last year's 23-3-0 squad that lost the final to Metea Valley after 100 minutes of scoreless soccer and nine shootout rounds. The longest match in state history ended when Metea Valley gained a 6-5 advantage.

Fillies coach Ryan Stengren brings his eighth team to the finals since 2013 and seeks his third title and first since 2018. He joins St. Charles' Joe Moreau (1995-2000) and New Trier's Jim Burnside (2014-2019), both Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Famers, as the only coaches to win six-consecutive trophies in the sport.

Stengren’s eight state trophies ranks third with Mark Longo, of Notre Dame (Quincy), who is the state's all-time wins leader and another Hall of Famer. He completed his 33-year career this spring. 

The only others to lead their teams to more trophies are Glenwood's Jay Lipe, who will earn his ninth this weekend in the AA finals, and the state’s second-winningest coach in Burnside, who has won a record 12 trophies since 1997.

Barrington earned its spot in the Final Four with a 5-3 victory over St. Charles North in its own supersectional. The Fillies meet Libertyville (17-2-2) at 5 p.m. Friday in the semifinal match at North Central College's Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in Naperville. Lincoln-Way East (21-4-0) and O'Fallon (19-3-1) meet in the second semifinal scheduled at 7 p.m.

Libertyville’s last visit to the finals came in 2021 when coach Daniel DePaz led his squad to a third place finish. That 2-1 victory came against Barrington. Libertyville earned its 10th trip to state when they won on penalties over supersectional host New Trier after scoreless game play.

The Wildcats appearance two years ago was the program's first state finals visit since 2001, when manager Scott Schinto led the team to the state title. Libertyville also claimed top honors in 1991 under IHSSCA Hall of Famer Andy Bitta.

Another finalist from the 2021 tournament, state champion O'Fallon, makes its return. Coach Justin Judiscak hopes to lead the Panthers to their second state title in three years. O'Fallon scored a late goal to force overtime and then won in penalties over Plainfield North in the Bloomington Supersectional.

The final state finals entrant, Lincoln-Way East (21-4-0), is assured of its first trophy. Coach Mike Murphy's Griffins edged Hinsdale Central 1-0 in the Andrew Supersectional to earn their third state trip and first since 2006, when IHSSCA Hall of Famer Brian Papa was their coach. Previously Murphy led now-defunct Lincoln-Way North to a fourth place Class 3A finish in 2014.

Here's a closer look at all four of the Class 3A finalists:

Barrington (22-0-2)

The Fillies, who ranked second in the final regular-season Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, are the lone undefeated team in the state.

The Mid-Suburban League champions enter the finals on a 13-match win streak since playing to a 0-0 draw with Downers Grove South on April 22. That Group E game of the Naperville Invitational was stopped at halftime due to ice on the field. The Fillies went on to take the tournament.

They've gone 19-0-1 since their 1-1 draw with Fremd on March 22 and have allowed just 12 goals and recorded 15 shutouts.

Barrington's 12th state finals appearance will deliver the program’s 10th trophy since its first trip in 2000. 

The 12 state appearance is tied for second with Lincoln-Way Central and Boylan. The 10th trophy ranks them behind New Trier (12) and St. Charles East (11) and ties them with Naperville North for third place. 

Stengren is 308-51-24 during his 15 years of leading the Fillies. He has won 17 or matches in each season since a 13-win campaign in his debut season in 2008. He collected his 300th win on May 3 with a 4-0 victory over Rolling Meadows.

His teams won state titles in 2017 and 2018, took second in 2019 and 2022, were third in 2013 and 2015 and placed fourth in 2021.

The Fillies' leading scorer is junior forward Sarah Sarnowski (23 goals, 15 assists). 

Barrington next leading scorers are 2022 Chicagoland Soccer all-staters senior midfielder Brooke Brown (15 goals, 16 assists) and sophomore forward Piper Lucier (14 goals, 18 assists). Senior forward Kate Lubinsky (11 goals, 9 assists) is next, and junior midfielder Maddy Zierbarth (10 goals, 3 assists) and senior midfielder Lucy Stanton (6 goals, 3 assists) round out the leaders. 

In goal, sophomore Megan Holland has made a huge impression. She allowed 11 goals in 16 matches and sports a .69 goals-against average.

Other returning seniors who were members of last year's runner-up squad are midfielder Kaitlyn Folz, defender Meredith McGreevy, and All-Staters Abby Raynor and defender Ellie Sanchez. Juniors who are back from a year ago are defender Annie Tarpey and midfielder Kaitlin Taylor.

The six individuals who were on the 2021 team that finished fourth were Brown, Lubinsky, McGreevy, Raynor, Sanchez and Taylor.

Team captains are Brown, Lubinsky. Raynor and Sanchez. The Fillies' Mid-Suburban League selections were Brown, Holland, Lucier, Sanchez, Sarnowski and Zierbarth. 

Fillies assistant coaches are Caleb Copeland, Roberto Avendano, Cesar Carranza, Brian Allen, Keven Barcal and IHSSCA Hall of Famer Scott Steib.

"This team has been on a journey all year long. We've come together as a team, both on and off the field to put ourselves in a position to advance and have the chance to compete for a state championship," Stengren said to Chicagoland Soccer's Mike Garofola.

"The seniors have led the way, and have set a great example to the rest of the team, and especially our younger players. I am so incredibly proud of each and every one of the players on our roster."

Libertyville (17-2-2)

The Wildcats started the season 3-2-1 after losing consecutive matches to Naperville North and Evanston on April 10 and 12 respectively. Libertyville has gone 14-0-1 since and carries a 10-match winning streak into their semifinal match with Barrington. The tie came against North Suburban Conference foe Lake Zurich on April 27.

The league champions have recorded 13 shutouts and have allowed just six goals since their consecutive defeats. Half of those goals-against came in their wild 4-3 double-overtime win over Hersey in the Glenbrook North Sectional semifinals on May 23.

Coach Daniel DePaz is 65-14-4 in his four seasons at Libertyville. The last three seasons have yielded 17 or more wins. The highlight came from their 18-2-0 squad that placed third two years ago. DePaz has a career record of 74-22-5 in five seasons, which includes his debut as a head coach in a one-year stint at Grayslake Central in 2018.

This is the 11th time that the Wildcats have qualified for state, which ties them for fifth place with St. Charles East. They only trail New Trier (16), Barrington (12), Lincoln-Way Central and Boylan (12) for most state appearances.

Libertyville's goals and assists leader is senior forward Ellie Rebmann (21 goals, 17 assists). 

Other top scorers are freshman midfielder Shea Krakowski (15 goals, 5 assists), junior midfielder Molly Koch (11 goals, 10 assists), sophomore forward Lilly Frantz (6 goals, 5 assists) and senior midfielder Jenna Krakowski (5 goals, 7 assists). 

Junior goalkeeper Kate Hopma has allowed eight goals while recording 44 saves.

Five individuals remain from the Wildcats' third place squad from 2021: seniors, midfielder Prudence Babat; defender Mabelle Kosowski; and midfielder Jenna Krakowski; and juniors, defender Erin Kelly; and Koch.

Team captains are Jenna Krakowski and Babat. The Wildcats assistant coaches are Paul Bravo, Ian Taylor, Scott Dearth, Santino Curcio and Scott Schinto.

"This team is just a phenomenal group," DePaz said. "They truly are a team and have come together really well as a group. I love how they work for each other and support each other no matter what. It really is an us versus me mentality. 

"This season has been such a fun season with this team and how they have set season goals and have worked hard getting better each and every day throughout the season to get to where we are now. That has truly been our thought process and work ethic, good or bad, practice or game, we are always looking to improve.

"Some of our leaders that have truly embodied the Wildcat way are Ellie Rebmann, Jenna Krakowski, Pru Babat and Mabelle Kosowski. They have really set the tone for the team and have been driving, pushing and helping the other players along throughout the season. I really could not have asked for a better group of leaders on and off the field."

Lincoln-Way East (21-4-0)

Mike Murphy has the rare distinction of capturing a state trophy and then being out of a job at the same school two years later.

After leading Lincoln-Way North to a fourth-place finish in 2014, Murphy saw his eight-year tenure as the head coach conclude when the young school was closed.

Fortunately Murphy, who was a longtime assistant on several state place-winning teams at Lincoln-Way and Lincoln-Way Central under Brian Papa and Dan Radz, was able to succeed IHSSCA Hall of Famer Papa at Lincoln-Way East and now has led the Griffins to their first trophy in their third state appearance, including their first since 2006.

Murphy is 82-43-6 in six seasons at East and 214-101-18 in his 14-year career as a head coach in the district after his Griffins defeated Hinsdale Central 1-0 in the Andrew Supersectional to assure them of a 7 p.m. Friday semifinal appearance against O'Fallon (19-3-1).

After Lincoln-Way East, the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division runnerup, got off to a 10-1-0 start, it lost three times in five matches between April 13 and April 29. 

But the Griffins have won nine in a row since then and have recorded 14 shutouts. The program is hopeful its first trophy in the sport will be the final trophy handed out Saturday.

Lincoln-Way East is led in goal-scoring by junior forward Cami Butler (17 goals, 2 assists) and sophomore forward Ellie Feigl (17 goals, 6 assists).

Other top Griffins’ scorers include: freshman midfielder Elizabeth Burfeind (11 goals, 9 assists); senior midfielder Brooklyn Mortell (6 goals, 9 assists); junior midfielder Daniela LaPointe (5 goals, 2 assists); sophomore midfielder Kara Waishwell (4 goals, 6 assists); and junior defender Emily Herlihy (2 goals, 9 assists). 

Junior goalkeeper Mattea Arroyo has a .72 GAA in 25 matches.

Team captains are senior forward Madison Dziedzic, junior defender Mia Hedrick and Mortell. The Griffins' assistant coaches are Karen Iliff, John Terry and Somer Strain.

"This has been a special year," Murphy said. "This has to be one of the best teams I have coached. It is not because we have a group of standouts, but it's because our group stands out. This whole year, the team has bonded and had great chemistry. We do not rely on any one single player, but we work as a collective. 

"I want to honor our two senior captains, Brooklyn Mortell and Madison Dziedzic. They have been great leaders on and off the field. They have molded this team and are a major reason we have been successful. Our defense, led by Mia Hedrick, has been solid and developing as the year progresses. Our midfield, led by Bre Herlihy (IHSSCA All-State) and Brooklyn Mortell (IHSSCA All-Sectional), has done a great job on possession and distribution. Our (all-conference) forwards Cami Butler and Ellie Feigl have done a great job finishing. 

"This year is about creating history. We have the most wins in East history. We have scored the most goals in East history and recorded the most assists in East history. We will also be the first trophy in soccer in East's history. I have been along for this ride with some of the best players a coach could ask for. They have great skill, great teamwork, but most importantly great character."

O'Fallon (19-3-1)

Two seasons ago, O'Fallon surprised the Class 3A field by beating Naperville North 2-1 in the supersectional, knocking off Libertyville 2-1 in the semifinals and then Lyons 1-0 in the title match to give the school its initial trophy in its second state appearance, which came 26 years after its debut in the finals in 1995.

Now coach Justin Judiscak is hoping that another thrilling supersectional win, this time a come-from-behind shootout triumph over Plainfield North at Bloomington, can lead to another title match appearance for his Panthers.

Judiscak, who's 73-30-5 in five seasons at the school, molded a program that went 2-15-2 in 2018 to an 18-2-0 title team in 2021. After going 20-2-0 a year ago, the Panthers are 19-3-1 with only two losses on Illinois soil. The second came against Nerinx Hall (Mo.) on May 5.

O'Fallon is 18-1-1 against Illinois teams. The setback came in a 4-3 loss against Granite City on April 29. Its other non-victory was a scoreless draw against Rochester on March 30. The Southwestern Conference champions have only allowed 13 goals against Illinois squads and have recorded 12 shutouts.

Five players who were on the 2021 championship squad are also members of this year's state finalists. The seniors are: midfielder/forward Kiley McMinn; defender Regan Schreckenberg; and midfielder Avery Taake; the juniors are: forward/defender Becca Koenig; and midfielder Ella Peterson.

No scoring or goalkeeping statistics for O'Fallon were posted on the IHSA website as of 9:30 p.m. Thursday evening. 

Assistant coaches for the Panthers are Craig Dippel, Jennifer Derickson and David Cole.

"We are excited to have qualified again for the state finals," Judiscak said. "Our team this year has been a great mix of younger talent along with upper-class leadership and experience. 

"We are led by a handful of players that are state champions, but also have some freshmen and sophomores that are looking to make their own mark in the program. At the head of it all is Kiley McMinn, our senior leader and the IHSSCA Player of the Year."