CRYSTAL LAKE — Prairie Ridge wasn’t about to let overconfidence get the best of it during Tuesday’s Class 2A Marian Central Regional semifinal against Belvidere North.
The top-seeded Wolves, who remained unbeaten at 16-0, scored five times in the game’s first 17-plus minutes, then coasted to a comfortable 6-0 victory.
“That’s the one thing I’ve really tried to repeatedly tell the girls headed into the postseason, is to take things one game and one step at a time,” Prairie Ridge coach Andre Watson said. “It’s cliché, but that mentality this time of year is critical.”
Prairie Ridge senior midfielder Jena Berkland kicked off the scoring about four minutes in when she hammered home a pass from junior Abby Eriksen into an open left side of the net.
“Abby played me a beautiful through-ball on that goal, and her pass couldn’t have been timed any better,” Berkland said. “That was a big key to this game, was our through-balls. Our passing was just clicking nonstop.
“It’s also always crucial to get that first goal in any game, to get your team going.”
Eriksen made it 2-0 five minutes later on a breakaway that was the result of one of those “through” passes, this time from freshman midfielder Lucille Klimkowski. Unlike Berkland, who is a four-year varsity player, Eriksen is only in her first varsity season with the Wolves. But she has been stellar.
“The main thing we want to do is play with confidence but also play in control,” Eriksen said. “And today, we were able to do that and dictate the pace and tempo from the start.”
After a six-minute lull in the action, the Wolves’ offense caught fire, scoring three more times over the next 1:40 on goals from junior forward Nicole Anderson, Berkland and senior forward Emily Perhats.
Just like that, it was 5-0 at halftime, and the rout was in progress.
Eriksen also scored the Wolves’ only second-half goal, on a long, looping shot from just a few feet outside of the top of the goalie box. It was the second time this year Prairie Ridge has beaten Belvidere North, by the same score.
The Wolves, who have outscored their opponents by an eye-popping 56-4 margin, according to Watson, will play next at 4:30 p.m. Friday for the regional title. They’ll face the winner of Wednesday’s other semifinal between Marian Central and Woodstock North. Prairie Ridge hasn’t faced either of those teams in 2018.
Despite the one-game-at-a-time approach, Berkland said last year’s supersectional loss to Wheaton Academy is adding fuel to this team’s fire.
“That game left us all with a bad taste after we lost,” Berkland said. “It was heartbreaking. But we’re gonna give it our best, but try to make sure we don’t look past anyone in the process.”
“We know there’s a target on our backs every time we step on the field,” Eriksen added. “And we understand why.”
STAR OF THE MATCH
Abby Eriksen, Prairie Ridge, jr, midfielder
Eriksen, who is in her first varsity season, scored her 11th and 12th goals of the year to help lift the Wolves to victory, keeping their record unblemished at 16-0.
52: Prairie Ridge's goal differential against its opponents this season. The Wolves have outscored teams by a 56-4 margin.
AND ANOTHER THING...
Freshman goalie Samantha Gablenz and junior Madeline McGuire both got playing time in net during Tuesday's win. P-R will face Marian Central or Woodstock North on Friday for the regional crown.
Prairie Ridge 6, Belvidere North 0
Belvidere North 0 0 --- 0
Prairie Ridge 5 1 --- 6
PR-Berkland, 5th minute
PR-Eriksen, 10th minute
PR-Anderson, 16th minute
PR-Berkland, 18th minute
PR-Perhats, 18th minute
PR-Eriksen, 58th minute
Prairie Ridge: Gablenz (1 shot, 1 save), McGuire (1 shot, 1 save). Belvidere North: Abramat (13 shots, 7 saves).