High school girls soccer insider: Crystal Lake Central's Emma Bolanowski is Athlete of the Week; sectional championship preview

Emma Bolanowski
Emma Bolanowski


Emma Bolanowski, Crystal Lake Central, so., F

Bolanowski scored the game-winning goal in overtime during Tuesday’s Class 2A Hampshire Sectional semifinal win over Boylan Catholic, 3-2. The goal sent the Tigers into a sectional championship matchup against Fox Valley Conference rival Prairie Ridge.

Bolanowski leads Central with 19 goals this season. She scored two goals in a regional title win over Kaneland and two against Woodstock North in the regional semifinals.


1. Prairie Ridge (20-1-1): The three FVC co-champions are the area’s last teams standing in postseason play. The area’s longest win streak (11) belongs to the Wolves.

2. Cary-Grove (14-2-1): The Trojans have won 11 of their past 12 games.

3. Crystal Lake Central (18-3): The Tigers have one of the most balanced attacks, 13 players have scored goals and 15 have assists this season. Seven have scored four goals or more.

4. Huntley (10-9-2): The Red Raiders battled South Elgin to an overtime loss in a Class 3A regional finals.

5. Jacobs (13-10-1): The Golden Eagles were on the short end of a wild, 5-4, loss to Hononegah in a Class 3A regional finals.


One year later: Once again, Barrington stands between Cary-Grove and the Class 3A Guilford Sectional championship. One year ago, the two teams met at Guilford High School in Rockford and played a sectional title game that was decided in penalty kicks.

Barrington won, 3-2 (3-1 PKs), and went on to win its second consecutive Class 3A state title. Now the Trojans have a shot at revenge. Barrington (19-1-1) has won eight in a row.

Two months later: Only one time this season has Prairie Ridge been shut out. Central held the Wolves scoreless in a 2-0 victory on April 16.

When they square off again in the Class 2A Hampshire Sectional championship, the Wolves will be looking for revenge, while the Tigers hope to recreate their April success.

“It’s going to be intense,” Prairie Ridge forward Abby Eriksen said. “We did not win every 50-50 ball [in the first game]. In that game, they wanted it more than us. Our passes weren’t what we wanted. That game we just didn’t play like we normally do.”

The loss was Prairie Ridge’s first regular season loss since 2017. Many of the athletes know each other and have played together through the Crystal Lake Force soccer club.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s regular season or playoffs with them,” Central coach Sarah Fack said. “These girls know each other. They play club with each other. It’s a rivalry in the conference. It’s always all out, 100 percent for all of them whenever we play each other.”

History lesson: Of the area’s three remaining teams, Central has the longest sectional drought – the Tigers have never won one (the IHSA did not offer a girls soccer postseason until 1988). After their only other regional title in program history in 2009, the Tigers lost in a Class 2A sectional semifinal.

Cary-Grove’s last sectional title came in 1998, when the Trojans earned their only state appearance and reached the quarterfinals in the old one-class system.

Prairie Ridge is hoping to win the fifth sectional title and first since 2017. Five of this year’s seniors were members of the 2017 varsity team as sophomores.


Class 2A Hampshire Sectional championship, 5 p.m. Friday: Prairie Ridge and Crystal Lake Central battle for a spot in the Class 2A Grayslake Central Supersectional.

Class 3A Guilford Sectional championship, 5 p.m. Friday: Barrington and Cary-Grove play for a spot in the Class 3A Barrington Supersectional.

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