Girls Soccer: State title sweet redemption for Hunter Drendel

Updated: June 2, 2012 11:00PM

Naperville North midfielder Hunter Drendel was one of many players who walked off the field in tears last year following a 1-0 loss to Granite City in the Class 3A state championship game.

Drendel was again in tears Saturday night, but for a much different reason. The senior was shedding tears of joy after setting up the only goal as the Huskies edged St. Charles North 1-0 in a four-overtime thriller to win the state title at North Central College.

Freshman Abbie Boswell started the decisive play when she passed up the field to Drendel at the top of the box. Drendel blindly back-tapped the ball to junior Christa Szalach, who buried a 15-yard shot just 42 seconds before the match would have gone to penalty kicks.

“There wasn’t much time left so it was pretty much do-or-die,” Drendel said. “I knew that Christa was behind me. I know Christa’s always got my back, so I was just giving it a shot and I’m really glad that it came out for the winning goal.”

The goal was a fitting end for the Huskies, who won their first state title in 1988, the first year the IHSA sanctioned girls soccer. That their second crown came in this, the 25th state tournament, was something the Huskies (24-1-2) had strove toward since last year’s state final loss.

“This is an amazing feeling, especially to be a part of something and actually finish it at the end, that’s awesome,” Drendel said. “To feel that [pain] last year, we knew we didn’t want to feel that and this year it’s a lot better.”

Drendel, one of four co-captains along with Szalach, senior defender Anna Prescott and junior midfielder Cora Climo, was a key part of a special senior class that showed unity and determination during a season in which every opponent brought their best game against them.

Players like goalie Allison Hitchcock, who made a game-saving diving stop on Lauren Koehl in the fourth overtime, Northwestern-bound defender Jen Korn, and unheralded role players Kirstin Deichstetter, Brittany Weizeorick and Melanie Hegner all played a role in delivering the Huskies to the top.

“The seniors wanted it so bad,” Naperville North coach Steve Goletz said. “There’s so much playoff experience on this team. They wanted to win it so badly and here it is. It’s awesome.”

What was the secret to the seniors’ success?

“I think we had a lot more heart,” Drendel said. “Not saying a lot of people don’t have heart, but we played Huskie soccer so hard and we have so much heart. Everyone just cares so much about each other and works so hard, it’s an amazing feeling. I’m so proud of everyone on my team.”

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