Naperville North accomplished something from 2016 to 2018 that had only been done one other time in the single class or the large class formats of the IHSA playoffs -- winning three-straight titles.
Only Granite City South under IHSSCA Hall of Famer Gene Baker was able to pull off that accomplishment when it won five titles in a row in the early years of the state tournament.
Naperville North coach Konrad and his 22-1-3 Huskies make their return to the IHSA Class 3A Final Four for the first time since that special run when they compiled a 74-3-4 record. In the program’s 12th finals visit, it brings a 25-match unbeaten string into Friday's 6 p.m. semifinal match against Lyons at Hoffman Estates High School.
"There is no place on earth like Hoffman Estates when it comes to high school soccer," Konrad said. "Many of my former players will visit the field while they are home from college or careers to reminisce about their time spent under the lights. I’m thrilled that another generation of North soccer players will get the opportunity to play against the state’s best on high school soccer’s biggest stage.”
Naperville North lost 5-2 to West Chicago in its season-opener but hasn't been beaten since. The Huskies played to a 1-1 draw in DuPage Valley Conference play against rival Naperville Central on Sept. 19, played a scoreless tie with Morton (Ill.) at the Great River Classic Sept. 29 in Bettendorf, Ia., and tied 0-0 with Oswego East on Oct. 7.
Since their only loss, the Huskies have only allowed 12 goals, recorded 15 shutouts and allowed one goal in eight other matches.
They've only given up more than one goal twice — against Benet on Sept. 2, and against Downers Grove South to close out their regular-season Oct. 12.
In the playoffs, they've outscored their opponents by a 12-2 margin. They didn't allow any goals in the Plainfield North Regional, won 3-1 over Romeoville in the Plainfield North Sectional semifinals and then defeated Naperville Central 1-0 for the title.
On Tuesday, Naperville North assured itself of its eighth state trophy after rallying to capture a 2-1 victory over Collinsville in the East Aurora Supersectional.
The Kahoks got a goal from Sam Garofalo in the 16th minute for the only goal of the opening half on a night featuring wintry conditions.
The Huskies responded with a goal from junior forward Jaxon Stokes in the 41st minute to tie the game. They moved in front for good with a score from sophomore defender/midfielder Andrew Hebron off of an assist from junior forward Noah Radeke in the 53rd minute.
Now the Huskies can set their sights on capturing a fifth state championship. The program’s first state crown came in 1998 in the big-school division for a team that was coached by IHSSCA Hall of Famer Dave Bucher.
Konrad, who has a 365-75-39 record in 20 years as Naperville North's head coach, also led his 2010 team to fourth place in 3A. This is the eighth time that one of his teams has won 20 or more matches.
Stokes leads the Huskies with 28 goals and has nine assists while Radeke leads the team in assists with 19 and has scored 21 goals. Radeke and Stokes are both IHSSCA All-State selections.
Other top scorers include sophomore midfielder Anthony Flores (5 goals, 4 assists); junior midfielder Niko Ladas (5 goals, 5 assists); sophomore defender Josh Pedersen (5 goals, 3 assists); and senior midfielder Hindo Allie (4 goals, 3 assists).
Also contributing on offense are junior defender Connor Hanrahan (5 assists); sophomore defender Colin McMahon (5 assists); junior midfielder Juan Carlos Hernandez-Moreno (2 goals, 4 assists); and Hebron (3 goals). In addition, sophomore defender Sam Hess (2 goals) has also played in all 26 of the Huskies' matches.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jack Bouska has an 0.54 GAA in 26 matches while senior Grant Montanari has an 0.21 GAA in 14 matches.
Beside Radeke and Stokes, the other Naperville North players who received IHSSCA postseason honors are All-Section selection Hess, Sportsmanship Award recipient senior defender Ryne Gaccione and All-Academic Award selection Allie.
Team captains are senior midfielder Ryan Paltzer and Stokes. Assistant coaches for the Huskies are Steve Goletz, Ryan Kuehne and Sean Kuehne.
“My team this year has grown,” Konrad said. “I have been very impressed by how they grew up so quickly this season. After losing the first game, they have focused on getting better every day and doing all the little things necessary to win. They truly earned their trip to the final weekend of the year.”