ARLINGTON HEIGHTS — Jackie Batliner’s assignment in the Barrington girls soccer team’s Class 3A Hersey Supersectional match was easy to explain, but much harder to execute.
The freshman outside back was tasked with marking Maddie Mulford, New Trier’s talented senior forward. Batliner was to follow the all-state selection all over the field — even when the ball was in New Trier’s end, 40 yards away — in the attempt to limit her effectiveness by cutting down on her time and space.
“I tried to stay with her and hold her off — try to not let [Mulford] get any shots,” Batliner explained.
Batliner did just that. Mulford didn’t have a single shot on goal in the eventual state champions’ 1-0 victory over Barrington June 3. Batliner used her speed, skill and quickness to essentially erase Mulford from the game.
It was an impressive display, but one with more nuance than what the simplistic assignment might suggest.
It also showed some of the ways in which Batliner has improved as a freshman, specifically “in terms of being more patient when she needs to — knowing when to challenge someone or when to be patient and delay and let the girl attack and make a mistake,” Barrington coach Ryan Stengren said.“She’s going to be a very good player for a lot of years for us.”
Batliner possesses obvious talent, having broken into the starting lineup of one of the state’s best teams as a freshman, but she said playing alongside center backs Mia Calamari and Carrie Caplin really helped her confidence this season.
The way the seniors communicated was important in getting Batliner to feel comfortable in big games — she said that was especially the case against New Trier — by doing things like calling out other teams’ players and keeping the back line in order. More than that, they accepted her as a friend and an equal.
“They’ve helped me through the season,” Batliner said. “They’ve made me more confident and helped me get better as a player. And we’ve really gotten close throughout the year.”