High School Sports

Collinsville girls soccer team heads to state, plans to return with ultimate prize

Collinsville didn’t like the way last season ended and is determined to do something about it.

The Kahoks, riding a 15-game winning streak, are in the Class 3A girls state soccer tournament at North Central College in Naperville for the second consecutive year. They stubbed their toe in 2015, losing 3-1 to Neuqua Valley and 2-1 to Barrington to finish fourth.

Making matters worse for the Kahoks was a broken leg suffered by all-state midfielder Sophia Sharos in the loss to Neuqua Valley. Sharos was the News-Democrat’s Player of the Year.

With a super-charged offense and a deep roster, Collinsville is going for broke this time around. A state championship is the goal when the Kahoks (21-1-2) begin the tourney with a semifinal match against Glenbard East (23-4) at 7 p.m. Friday.

“We know what to expect and I think we’re more comfortable,” senior defender Chayse Richardson said. “Sophie got hurt (last year) and that slowed us down a little but, but we’re back this year, we’re good and we have a lot of people that have stepped up to help.

“We just work so well together on our defensive line. Then you go to offense and we have so many people who can finish the ball. We don’t have one person. We have a lot.”

Going up there last year, it was all new to us. There were nerves, getting used to being there. This year, since we’re used to it, it’s awesome. We’re so excited to be back again. Hopefully, we get a better result than last year.

Collinsville junior forward Emily Holten on the Kahoks’ second straight berth in the state tournament

The Kahoks’ abundance of skilled offensive players is capable of stressing out the best of defenses. Juniors Emily Holten (24 goals, 15 assists) and Tayler Devine (19 goals, eight assists) anchor the forward line, while juniors Andrea Frerker (seven goals, 12 assists) and Alynnah O’Leary (12 goals, eight assists) lead the midfield.

Jalyn Richardson (seven goals) and Courtney Marten (six goals), both sophomore forwards, add spice to the mix. Chayse Richardson has 10 assists, most off flip throws.

“I’m just happy we’re going back,” Frerker said. “We’ve worked for it all year long. It’s been in our minds. Now that we’re back, we want to win it.

“It was hard (last year), especially with Sophie’s injury and everything that went on, and the nerves of being up there for the first time. We’re going up to enjoy it and make the most of it.”

Holten agreed.

“Going up there last year, it was all new to us,” she said. “There were nerves, getting used to being there. This year, since we’re used to it, it’s awesome. We’re so excited to be back again. Hopefully, we get a better result than last year.”

Collinsville coach Clay Smith has no doubt that will be the case.

“They’re really determined,” Smith said of his players. “It’s a little different scenario (this year). These girls know they can go up there and do some damage. That’s the difference between this team and the team we had last year. Throw in the events of an injury (to Sharos) and it took so much out of us mentally. It was a drain on the girls.”

I’m just happy we’re going back. We’ve worked for it all year long. It’s been in our minds. Now that we’re back, we want to win it.

Collinsville junior midfielder Andrea Frerker

Smith hopes the Kahoks’ offense will be too much to handle for Glenbard East, which has logged a school-record 20 shutouts.

“I don’t know everything about the teams that they’ve played,” Smith said. “I don’t know if every team they’ve played ... They may have one or two girls that are pretty dynamic up top that can put the ball in the net, but I don’t know if they have four or five like we have. Put more than three into the equation and it’s tough to defend.

“We hope to wear people down and keep the ball. Our phrase so far in the postseason is: ‘Attack the goal with all you have, keep going at them and something will happen.’”

We hope to wear people down and keep the ball. Our phrase so far in the postseason is: ‘Attack the goal with all you have, keep going at them and something will happen.’

Collinsville coach Clay Smith

If Collinsville defeats Glenbard East, it will face New Trier or Huntley in the title game at 7 p.m. Saturday. New Trier won the state tournament last year with a victory over Neuqua Valley.

Semifinal losers Friday will play in the third-place game at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Scouting the Rams

Glenbard East, which plays in the Upstate Eight Conference, has earned its first berth in the state tournament.

The Rams knocked off Leyden and Downers Grove North in the Glenbard East Regional, LaGrange Lyons and Hinsdale Central in the Hinsdale Central Sectional and Naperville North in the Romeoville Super-Sectional. Their 23 victories are a school record. Glenbard East’s sectional wins both came in penalty kicks.

“They’re having one of the best years a soccer team can have,” Smith said. “They’re making history, literally, in their school. This is the first year in their girls soccer program that they’ve even won a regional. They’ve gone from there. They’ve upset every team you can upset up north to get where they’re at, so their confidence is through the roof right now. They just think they can go out there and beat everybody.”

Glenbard East has two talented forwards in senior Brittany Paganucci (30 goals, 15 assists) and junior Dana Plotke (15 goals, five assists). Paganucci has signed with Illinois State and is the Rams’ career scoring leader with 77 goals and 52 assists.

“She’s a threat on the ball and they look to get the ball to her feet, get players around her and see what happens,” Smith said. “She’s a good player and she can find the back of the net.”

They’re a very hard-nosed defensive team. They play a traditional formation to where they keep girls behind the ball and win balls in the air. They’re deadly (on restarts). They just get numbers to the box, and a lot of them. They’re fearless with balls in the air. They win basically everything.

Collinsville coach Clay Smith on Glenbard East, the Kahoks’ opponent in the semifinals of the state tournament

The Rams’ best playmakers are sophomore Elizabeth Toledo (nine goals, 11 assists) and senior Holly Ward (six goals, six assists). Senior defender Sammie Sarles has eight assists.

Glenbard East relies heavily on its defense, which includes Sarles, sophomore Faith Davies and junior Paige Taylor. Senior keeper Sierra Dana has 72 saves and a 0.44 goals-against average.

“They’re a very hard-nosed defensive team,” Smith said. “They play a traditional formation to where they keep girls behind the ball and win balls in the air. They’re deadly (on restarts). They scored a good restart goal against Naperville (North). They just get numbers to the box, and a lot of them. They’re fearless with balls in the air. They win basically everything.”

Smith said a factor in the Kahoks’ favor could be their state experience of last year.

“It is their first trip to the state tournament,” Smith said of the Rams. “There’s a lot of hoopla that goes with it. I think that contributed to our performance last year. We’re a year older, we’re prepared for it and we’re going to stay focused. We’re going to have fun, enjoy every moment and be ready to go.”

Kahoks stubborn on ‘D’

Collinsville has posted eight shutouts this season and also has limited its opponents to one goal in 11 games. Richardson, juniors Dayle McEwen and Danielle Knutson and seniors Hanna Liljegren and Caydren Jones have all made valuable contributions.

Goalies Julie Scheiter, a senior, and Morgan Lerch, a junior, have shined. The 5-foot-10 Scheiter has 71 saves and a 0.46 GAA. The 5-9 Lerch has 37 saves and a 0.33 GAA.

“Our goalies are good, too,” Smith said. “They have some size, they both have a good wingspan and they’re both very athletic. Right now, Julie’s kind of riding the hot hand. But I have all the confidence in the world in both our keepers.” 

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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