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ILLPOLO.COM


Feature Article

 

March 22, 2015

Naperville North Takes Down Defending Champs

By Aaron Brown

 

When a defending champion loses for the first time the following season, it is not uncommon for eyebrows to raise and for questions to be asked. Things were no different this past weekend after Naperville North beat Fenwick 13-6 in the Huskies' mini-tournament.

 

Truth be told, Fenwick may have started the season ranked too high (in the top spot) after losing the majority of their starters to graduation. At the same time, a young and talented group of players spearheaded by a natural goal scorer like Catie Wallace were coming off a season where they did not lose a single game to a team from Illinois (the Friars lost twice to teams from Florida and Michigan).

 

Meanwhile, the Huskies had a large hurdle to overcome on Saturday as they faced a team that eliminated them from the playoffs in the state quarterfinal round in 2014. Imagine being ahead 6-5 at halftime against a team you have never beaten before only to lose 11-8 and watch that same team go on to win the state title. Would the ghosts of seasons past affect the play of the third-ranked Huskies?

 

Not a chance. The game kicked off in Naperville with the teams feeling each other out before Katie Horn set the tone with an early goal from the left side of the pool to make the score 1-0. Two possessions later, Jilian Eiken connected from close range and the Huskies led 2-0 midway through the opening period.

 

The Friars looked to respond as they always seem to do when backed up against a wall, but Wallace just missed the right of the cage with a shot from the point as the shot clock expired. On the other end, Eiken quickly drew an ejection and Horn scored her second of the period to make the score 3-0. Fenwick would have another good chance from around five meters on their next chance, but freshman Molly McGuire was denied by North goaltender Christina McBride and the home side still led 3-0 late in the period.

 

As mentioned above, the Friars always seem to have a response, so when Kelly Frumkin scored from the left side with just under one minute remaining in the opening quarter, that lingering doubt of whether the Friars would make a monumental run and turn the game around seemed to be on everyone's mind in the glass-divided natatorium. And sure enough, Fenwick would get a stop and a solid chance on the other end before the end of the period, but a lob shot sailed just over the cage and the Huskies took their 3-1 lead into the second period.

 

The Friars seemed to have a bit of momentum despite the two-goal deficit, so when Wallace stripped McBride to the left of the cage after a rebound opportunity, the Fenwick junior had possession with a wide-open goal at her disposal. Magically, the sophomore goalkeeper was able to cleanly strip Wallace from behind before she could fire in a sure goal to cut the lead to 3-2. Instead, Horn skipped a shot in from the left side one minute later and the Huskies seemed to be comfortable again with a 4-1 advantage.

 

McGuire had other ideas, as she capitalized on a double team elsewhere to find the right side of the cage from just outside seven meters to cut the lead to 4-2. Would that be the moment where the game reached a turning point?

 

Not this time, as the Huskies quickly drew an ejection on the other end. Caitlin Holzer made a brilliant move with the ball toward the goalline before lofting a pass to Eiken on the left post, where she slotted an easy goal into the left side of the cage to make the score 5-2.

 

If there was to be a turning point in this game, that was it. It was the mark of an experienced team doing experienced things and not giving in to the pressure of a difficult test. After another defensive stand, Eiken lobbed a shot in from the left post to increase the lead to 6-2, then Horn added another goal on the counterattack to put the hosts ahead by five entering the final minute of the half.

 

The Friars had their late first-half chances, but a missed lob, a solid save by McBride, and a shot that hit the back of the net after time had expired allowed Naperville North to avoid the type of rally that could have affected them mentally during the halftime break.

 

Horn and Wallace traded goals to start the second half, then Fenwick's Eryn Kulyk earned a penalty shot that might have helped the Friars get back into the game. McBride did not allow the goal, then Eiken assisted Horn on a score at the other end after an ejection to make the score 9-3 as time in the third period dwindled down.

 

After a few Fenwick chances that went just awry, the fourth quarter had already arrived with the Huskies still firmly in control. That fact was highlighted after Horn drove in for a goal and Holzer scored on a breakaway to put the Huskies ahead 11-4 just two minutes into the final period.

 

McGuire was left alone at five meters to add her second goal, but Holzer was equal to the task from that same distance after a North timeout and the lead for the home side was 12-5. Taylor Stoner would add another goal for the Huskies before McGuire notched her third score and both teams essentially let the clock dwindle down on Naperville North's 13-6 victory over the defending champions.

 

 

 

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