Jenna Szczesny strikes, sends Barrington past Neuqua Valley

SHARE Jenna Szczesny strikes, sends Barrington past Neuqua Valley

Barrington cannot be accused of scheduling cupcakes to start the season.

The Fillies kicked off against two-time defending state champion Naperville North and followed that Thursday by facing Neuqua Valley, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation by Studentsports.com. Both were road matches.

But Barrington is still undefeated. The Fillies followed Monday’s 0-0 tie with the Huskies by knocking off Neuqua Valley 3-2 at Metea Valley.

It was an impressive showing for the visiting Fillies, who exhibited dramatic progress in a span of three days.

“We improved a lot,” Barrington junior striker Jenna Szczesny said. “We’ve been practicing really hard. The practices have been high intensity and everyone’s been getting after it.”

After Olivia Schmitt gave Neuqua Valley (0-1) the lead on a beautiful 25-yard shot just 1:28 into the first half, the Fillies tallied the next three goals, with the speedy-yet-strong Szczesny playing a big role in the first two.

Barrington got the equalizer off a corner kick by Mia Calamari with 18:37 left in the first half. Her serve from the right side went to Szczesny on the far post and she headed it across the goal mouth, where senior defender Carrie Caplin converted.

Szczesny then put the Fillies (1-0-1) in front eight minutes later as she took a lead pass from Kelsey Muniz and scored on a breakaway. She was robbed of another when Wildcats goalkeeper Jamie McInerney made a kick save on a volley from point-blank range with 4:20 to go before halftime. McInerney also stopped Szczesny on a breakaway in the second half.

The onslaught was all part of the Fillies’ strategy to control the midfield and put pressure on the defense with pinpoint passing.

“We’ve worked on that the last two days and it’s nice to see something you’ve worked on executed in [a game], so I was very happy with that,” Barrington coach Ryan Stengren said. “It’s only going to get better, too. We probably should have put more in. We had several opportunities.”

Neuqua played tighter defensively in the second half, but Barrington broke through again with 26:44 to go when senior Nicole Niro headed home a Calamari corner kick.

“We gave up two set-piece goals and we worked with defensive set pieces all of two minutes in practice, so that’s something we’ll worry more about over spring break than right now,” Neuqua Valley coach Joe Moreau said. “We still have a lot of things to work on. In the second half we played much better defensively, under control a little bit and not so hyper. We communicated better.”

The Wildcats pulled within 3-2 just three minutes after Niro’s goal. Senior defender Talise Romain, who barely missed scoring in the first half on a 25-yard shot, made a strong run up the right wing and slid a pass in front to freshman Allie Fullreide, who scored off the inside of the left post with 23:13 remaining. But the Wildcats were unable to get another shot off.

Despite the win, the Fillies knew to take the triumph in stride.

“It’s a confidence-booster but it’s the beginning of the season and they probably have some new players and they probably have to get used to them just like we’re getting used to our players,” Szczesny said.

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