By the time Prairie Ridge girls soccer reached the Class 2A supersectional last year, the Wolves were playing without four starters – two because of injuries and two because of red cards in the previous game.
Though Prairie Ridge lost that day to Wheaton Academy, a number of younger Wolves had a chance to play in a big-time postseason atmosphere.
“By the end of the [supersectional], we kind of looked similar to what we are now,” coach Andre Watson said.
The Wolves returned only a handful of players who spent the entire 2017 season on varsity. But a number of JV players were called up for the postseason run.
Now those athletes have helped propel Prairie Ridge to a 15-0 regular season, including a Fox Valley Conference title.
“It just kind of came together pretty early,” Watson said. “We realized we had a lot of good players, a lot of good depth.”
Prairie Ridge opens the 2018 postseason Tuesday against Belvidere North at the Class 2A Marian Central Regional. The Wolves are the No. 1 seed in their sub-sectional.
Seniors Jena Berkland and Emily Perhats have spearheaded the attack for the Wolves all season. Junior Abby Klimkowski leads the back line in front of goalkeeper Sam Gablenz, a freshman who has recorded 12 shutouts this season.
“At this point, you just want to be playing some good soccer and you want to be playing as a team,” Watson said. “You’re kind of hoping that you’re rounding into shape at this time. There’s always been things we can continue to work on and fine tune, and continue to get better."
Other top seeds in the Class 2A Rochelle Sectional include Burlington Central (19-2), Sycamore (18-2) and Crystal Lake Central (12-6-1).
Two local teams entering the postseason on a roll will square off in the Crystal Lake South Regional semifinals Wednesday. South (10-6) and Woodstock (14-3-4) open the postseason Wednesday. South has won six of its last seven games, Woodstock is unbeaten in 15 of its past 16 contests, with 12 wins and three ties.
The Gators are another team that returned only a handful of starters from last year. The Gators have steadily improve.
“We had a few girls that missed some games for various reasons,” South coach Jay Mueller said. “We were trying to work a lot of new girls into the system because we graduated so many. … Once we got everybody in there, we started to improve a little bit.
“We had a great time. It was very exciting as we started getting into the conference season, getting into some close and intense games.”
In Class 3A, Jacobs (10-5-2) is the No. 2 seed in the Rockford Guilford Sectional, while Cary-Grove (10-2-2) comes in at No. 3. Defending Class 3A state champion Barrington (14-3-2) looms as the No. 1 seed on the opposite side of the sectional.
In Class 1A, Johnsburg has already secured a regional title with Friday’s win over Harvest Christian. The Skyhawks take on North Shore Country Day at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Johnsburg Sectional.