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Twice as Nice, Part 2: Two state titles in one day for NNHS

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Nov. 4, 2017 will go down in Naperville North athletics history. Naperville North’s Girls Cross Country team and Boys Soccer team won another pair of state championships in a single day, 364 days after this exact occurrence in 2016.

GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY

Kirubel Mesfin

Girls Cross Country entered the season with high expectations for themselves, especially after winning state last year and twice in the past three seasons. Although winning state is always such a large achievement, Coach Dan Iverson was more impressed with the process that got the girls to that point.

“Distance running is progressive, when you have a bunch of people that are working really hard, generally speaking, they’re going to get better. It is not going to always end up in a state championship, but it’s fun when it does,” Iverson said.

Seniors Sarah Schmitt (4th, 16:33) and Hannah Ricci (14th, 17:04) both left it all on the course and Iverson was very pleased with the example that they set for the rest of the team.

“Both of them are fantastic kids, hard workers and genuinely caring people who really want to make the younger people feel at home. Obviously, it’s helpful to be fast, but it’s even better to be a good person, and both of them are,” Iverson said.

Naperville North engaged in an unusual tactic by having seven people run, but bringing 14 people to stay the night before the state competition.

“The state actually allows you to bring 12, and then you can choose [seven] from those 12 for your roster, in case people get sick or hurt. We ended up bringing 14 though just because there’s 14 seats on the Huskie Bus and we wanted to bring as many people as possible.”

Also placing for the team were Junior Alex Morris (7th, 16:41), Junior Megan Driscoll (39th, 17:42), Junior Claire Hill (54th, 17:52), Freshman Audrey Mendrys (75th, 17:59), and Sophomore Maggie Gamboa (80th, 18:03).

BOYS SOCCER

Brant Bednarz

After the girls sealed the deal in the afternoon, the boys soccer team looked to bring home some hardware for the second consecutive season.

Huskies finished 27-1-1 this season, the lone loss coming to archrival Naperville Central early in September. NNHS earned the number one seed in addition to a reputation as one of the top teams in the state.

Their first two playoff games were blowouts over Batavia (6-0) and Lockport (4-0). The theme of shutting out the opposition continued with consecutive wins over Metea Valley (2-0) and Naperville Central (1-0) to advance to the sectional championship on Halloween night. The Huskies faced Cicero Morton, a team with only one loss, for a berth at state for the second straight season. Morton came out firing, but the performance of Huskies goalie Tom Welch proved to be too much to handle throughout the opening half. Early in the second half, the Huskies grabbed a 1-0 lead on a header and spooked the Mustangs for the remainder of the contest. After a few saves by Welch during the final push from the Mustangs, the Huskies found themselves heading to state once again.

The State Semifinal pitted underdog Saint Charles North against the favored Huskies for a berth in the state championship. Twelve minutes into the contest, FORW Patrick Koenig booted home a free kick to open the scoring for the Huskies. Less than four minutes later, MF Jack Barry tapped in a rebound to double the lead and never looked back. Securing their sixth consecutive shutout and 21st of the season, the Huskies clinched a berth in the state championship for the second straight season.

The only challenger left for the Huskies, the Libertyville Wildcats, entered the state championship without a loss. Highly touted senior captain Ryan Wittenbrink, who committed to Indiana University in March, led the way for the Wildcats all season. Looking to repeat as state champions, the Huskies were determined to knock off the Wildcats, who won the state title in 2015. After a scoreless first half highlighted by spectacular saves by Welch and a strike from Wittenbrink clanking off the post, both teams looked to find their stride in the second half. With 13 minutes left in the game, Jack Barry approached the Dawg Pound with a gaping smile on his face as he prepared for one of his signature throw-ins. He launched it directly into the goalmouth where D Colin Iverson headed it home to put the Huskies in front. The Wildcats had no answer, cementing the seventh straight shutout for the Huskies and the second consecutive state championship victory.

The Huskies finished the season with 22 total shutouts, ranking second in IHSA history behind only the 1982 Warriors of Granite City. Huskies Head Coach Jim Konrad elaborated on the success of the goaltending all season.

“Tommy stood on his head for us and made a couple huge saves,” Konrad said. “He has done that all season.”

Despite losing players such as captain Jack Barry next season, the core group of returning team members have a solid chance to sustain the success next season following back-to-back state championships. Senior Jack Hill emphasized the large role that teamwork has played in the success of the Huskies throughout the last couple of seasons.

“There are 27 guys on this team, and all of them mean the same,” Hill said. “Every one of us has the same impact on the game.”

The amount of school spirit, just like last year, has been boosted to unprecedented levels as the winter and spring sports seasons quickly approach.

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Twice as Nice, Part 2: Two state titles in one day for NNHS